Over 20 years in the game and there’s no doubt that Feeder are a rock and roll institution at this stage. David Dooley caught up with frontman Grant Nicholas to talk about their upcoming Academy and Indiependence shows, the legitimacy of X Factor fame and that Gran Turismo soundtrack.
You guys started back at the start of the ‘90s and you’ve been together since. With so many bands reuniting these days from the Stone Roses, Soundgarden, etc how do you feel having outlasted all of them?
Well I don’t know really. It’s been an amazing history really. I suppose we’ve had a career which is something to be grateful for but I think we’ve worked hard and I think we’ve always done our thing and stuck to what we feel is us and I think we’re very lucky. Possibly the fact that we’re a very song-based band aswell has probably helped us as we’ve never really been part of any trend or anything. It is interesting the way bands reform and there seems to be a lot doing that it’s kind of, sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s irritating I find.
Is there any band who’ve reunited recently that you find irritating?
Well not really you know. I saw the Stone Roses back in the day so I was lucky to see them in a small club back when they were first time around but I can see there’s a lot of buzz on the Stone Roses as they’re a very influential band. I just think that when you decide to call it a day it’s time to move on but people can be tempted by money and do some festivals. I can totally understand why people do it. I think when we stop it’ll probably be nice to call it a day instead of reforming a year later.
Exactly, you saw the Stone Roses in a small club and they’re playing in Dublin to 45,000 people. It’s quite a jump.
It’s a real hot gig isn’t it.
It is yeah. So Feeder are playing the Academy in August and then Cork’s Indiependence festival a day later and I was looking at your other tour dates and you’ve a few days off after the Indiependence show so do you think you’ll be sticking around to catch the rest of the festival?
Well hopefully. I don’t know what we’ve got on after, there may be some things that come in that aren’t on our website but if we’ve got time to hang around and spend a bit of time there. It’s a great place and we don’t often have time to enjoy these places when we’re on to the next gig or whatever’s happening but if we’ve got a bit of time we might stay a day or two and sort of enjoy ourselves a bit. It really depends on what’s happening at that time.
It took you guys five years to find real success outside of your local area. How do you feel about X-Factor with their overnight success stories?
(Laughs) It’s a whole different world really. Although I think music has become; everything about the industry has changed since we started. Certainly in the last 5 years. It’s interesting as you’ve got bands from X-Factor playing the same line-up as rock bands at festivals. It’s just bizarre, that never would have happened ten years ago. It is what it is, it’s entertaining, people like watching it and it makes good TV but it’s very shallow to be honest and it does give people a false illusions about the business. That whole pop side is so different to the rock world that I’m used to.
A bit different to the legitimate side of it really?
Yeah but you can’t blame someone for having a go and having their moment. I always slag people off for doing it but now everyone thinks they can be a successful band or artist because of those programs which isn’t the case as there isn’t room for everybody. Some people just don’t have the talent.
Basically if they have auto-tune and a sob-story they’re gonna have a pretty good chance.
Yeah, that’s what a lot of the kids are now used to so it’s a natural thing for a lot of people whereas coming from the slightly more old-school stance, it’s bizarre the way things have gone really with TV and ratings.
But then on the other hand, The Voice UK actually cancelled their live tour so maybe that’s a sign of things to come that this could be a turning point and people are going back to actually writing their own songs.
Yeah well that’s where the talent is I think. I’m not saying there isn’t people that come out of them programs without talent but it’s a conveyer belt isn’t it; on to the next one and I do think people get false illusions about it but I suppose if you get your five minutes of fame it’s better than not getting it at all so you can see why people are interested and get pulled in by it. It’s a whole different world to what I do but at the same time it’s music and music is all in the same grace now. The music scene has changed a lot, it doesn’t seem to be put into categories anymore. There’s just too much stuff out there really.
Oh yeah, genre is effectively dead. You can’t really categorise anything by genre anymore.
It’s absolutely bizarre. It’s also down to certain radio stations as well playing a certain thing, that’s what they play and that’s what kids buy or download. If they’re not being exposed to certain bands or rock music or whatever then they can’t go out and buy it because they don’t know what it’s about.
Yeah it hasn’t been brought to their attention.
There’s too many other things on the internet that kids are interested in aswell. It’s really what people are educated with musically that I think that can become popular or not popular really, if you’ve got loads of rock on the radio then kids will start buying rock music again it’s that simple really.
And then you say the music industry has changed a lot since you guys started, would you prefer if it stayed the way it was back then or the way it is now.
Although I don’t like some of the stuff with the labels and the deals as well weren’t great back in the day and probably aren’t now but I did prefer the old way. I’m pleased I experienced that for quite a long time with so many years with the old model in some way but the problem was that the labels should have embraced technology instead of trying to shut it down and that’s when it all went pear-shaped but I think it was in some way harder but it was easier in other ways. There’s almost too much choice now, the internet’s a powerful thing but it’s almost like too much of a good thing really and I still like the old school way. It’s how we started and I have some fond memories of those times even though some of the deals we did at the time weren’t financially as good as they could have been but we were pretty lucky as we’ve been on a small label, we had quite a lot of freedom.
And do you prefer touring or prefer recording?
I’m a real recording person as I live producing and writing stuff. But don’t get me wrong I do love touring aswell I think it’s a happy medium. I think it depends on the success of each record aswell. Some albums are more fabricated than others. I think a combination of the two but I would probably say I still really enjoy the writing and studio process. You’ve got a little bit less pressure, you don’t really have to worry about all the travelling but saying that it’s awesome to go play music live to people. If you have a good show it’s the best feeling in the world, you don’t get that in the studio.
After 20 years, have you ticked all the boxes with what you want to achieve with Feeder or is there anything else still on the list?
Nowhere near. I mean on a personal level, I haven’t ticked all the boxes on where I’d like to take Feeder before we call it a day and some of the stuff I want to do in the future so no I haven’t ticked all the boxes. I don’t think you can ever write off a band in this day and age, it’s all down to the songs I think. A band like ourselves, our albums do well and it’s as simple as that really. I think it’s the same for most acts but we have a great fanbase and a very loyal following so it’s just that we don’t want to feel that we’re happy in what we’ve got with the same fans, we’re always keen to bring new fans to the table. On the last few records we picked up a lot of new fans and a lot of young fans so I suppose that’s the power of the internet for you. You get radio play aswell, not necessarily on Radio 1 as much as we used to but we still get a lot of support and I think we’ve definitely got a few more boxes that we want to tick.
How do you keep the songwriting fresh after 20 years?
I don’t know, I just love it. I love writing songs and some of the stuff I write whilst I might not be able to use it for Feeder. We’re a pretty diverse band, we’ve got the heavy stuff, the acoustic stuff, the more experimental stuff so I have quite a lot of freedom as a writer even doing the Feeder stuff. I still like it, I like writing songs, I still have that drive and that urge to still do it. I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t writing songs.
How do you find writing and recording without a full-time drummer in the band?
It’s been really easy. I write enough stuff on acoustic to start off and we’ve been working with Karl Brazil who worked on the last two Feeder albums and he did a lot of live stuff with us aswell but he’s a busy guy so when he’s not around we also have a guy called Damon Wilson who’s a great live drummer so it’s either Karl or Damon who do all the live shows with us. Recording so far has mainly been Karl and when he’s not around we’ll use Damon. So it works out really well as they’re both great guys and although they’re not full-time members when they’re with us it feels like they’re in the band so it’s been really good. It’s nice to work with two completely different styled drummers, it’s interesting. We’re lucky that we’ve found two really good people
Way back when you guys had three songs on the Gran Turismo 3 soundtrack, are you aware of how popular that made you guys?
It definitely helped us, it did. To be fair we’d already had a bit of success before that but it’s a massive game so it introduced Feeder to a whole new audience, that game was massive. I think we were pretty lucky cos we got the lead track on that aswell with ‘Just A Day’ and that was a b-side. It’s bizarre, I wrote that song for our second album in America but the album didn’t get released there in the end as there were label issues but it end up on the game and took on a life of it’s own really.
I know I wasn’t alone in going into the soundtrack and i’d turn off every song except the three Feeder ones that were on there.
Ah well cheers!
But even the ‘Just a Day’ video, it was almost like a YouTube inspired video before YouTube was even invented.
It was way ahead of it’s time. The director, David Knowles who’s done quite a few Feeder videos, it was a brilliant idea, it was a cheap video to make and he was totally ahead of the game on that one as it was a really clever video. It’s become a bit of a cult video for us as some people have tried to copy it since but I think we were the first to really do that.