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Hello Again

(Interview With Ian Watkins, Mike Lewis & Stuart Richardson Taken From Black Velvet 39 - Feb 2004)

By Shari Black Velvet

"8.02am. I am actually insane. No doubt about it. I am mad. It's only 8.02am and I've been up for five hours already. I couldn't sleep last night. I was too excited. I felt like an 11 year old who was about to go to secondary for the first time. Tired really doesn't even come close to how I feel. I sympathise with insomniacs. I really do". Lostprophets fan Jen, AKA king_gitface, wrote the above on the Dragonninja Lostprophets message board as the opening intro to her tour diary. She was one of a bunch of fans who'd committed themselves to doing all five shows of the first UK Lostprophets tour since the recording of 'Start Something', the follow-up album to the successful 'Fake Sound Of Progress'. The tour saw the band jump from Manchester to Glasgow, Birmingham to London to Newport in the space of six days. The shows were low-key warm-up dates for the band to reacquaint themselves with their fans and the live setting - of which they did both with ease. A week later the fantastic first single from 'Start Something', 'Burn Burn' was released. Less than a month later and they were playing arenas supporting the much-lauded Linkin Park.





'Burn Burn' is an electric blast of high-energy rock and is undoubtedly Lostprophets' best work to date. The band have improved in leaps and bounds since the release of debut album 'Fake Sound Of Progress' and 'Burn Burn, being their 'come-back' single, was a 'look at us, we're back and we're bigger and better than ever before' heads up to the rock world. Frontman Ian Watkins, guitarist Mike Lewis and bassist Stuart Richardson talked to Black Velvet about said single, new album 'Start Something', being straight edge and more backstage in Birmingham.

We begin by chatting about the 'Burn Burn' videoshoot since Black Velvet was actually there and took part in it (sadly, there was no close-up in the end result, boo hoo). Fans had been invited down to the Roundhouse Theatre in Camden, London in September for a day of fun-filled mayhem. Footage included running around the theatre's catacombs, a 'party scene' involving bikes and cars, tattooed women and a bulldog, a full-on band performance on a tiny make-shift stage, cheerleaders, breakdancers and more.
"It's the best one we've done," says Ian about the shoot. "I felt we had more control this time. The last director was a bit of a loon. He wouldn't let us watch any of the rushes or anything like that. Nice guy but… a loon. Patrick the director (of 'Burn Burn') was cool and we were involved every bit of the way so if we wanted to do anything it was 'yeah yeah'. And it was fun, it was a good laugh".
"It was just hanging out with everybody," adds Mike. "Just having all our friends there and people who hadn't seen us for a long time."
The videoshoot was the first time most, if not all, of the fans actually heard the single. But the band weren't at all worried of their reaction. Stuart comments, "We knew it was a good tune. We knew it was better than anything we'd written before, so we were pretty confident. If they don't like it, they're all deaf!"
Mike continues, "It was pretty cool because up until that point it was only our friends who had heard it, and that's cool, and we knew it was good and our friends were telling us it was good, but it's always cool to have outside thoughts. It was cool. I'd say 90% of the people who have heard it have been into it and like it. And the other 10% can piss off!"

The song is quite different to past Lostprophets material, with a more commercial and catchy vibe.
"Most people like it," says Stuart. "Some people think it's a bit different to what they expected. Are we going to stay the same? If we all stayed the same it would be a boring world."
Ian reckons, "At the end of the day it's not representative of any one song on the album but we wanted to get people talking. If we released a Lostprophets song, typical us, our old fans would all be happy, we wouldn't get any new fans. People would be 'ah, it's Lostprophets, Jesus wept'."
"It sounds like Lostprophets but a bit more… punk," is Stuart's take on the song.
Ian continues, "We wanted to grab people's attention first. Our old fans might not like it but most of our old fans will wait for the album just to see, whereas new people will be like 'don't really like Lostprophets, but this song's alright, like'."
"It's just another case of us doing whatever the hell we want," adds Mike. "And we wanted to write a song like that so we did. It's exactly the same as what it was when we did 'Fake Sound Of Progress'. We wanted to write a song like 'The Handsome Life Of Swing' so we did and then at the same time we wrote a song like 'For Sure', which was a complete polar opposite of that song. At the end of the day that's what we're about. We just write whatever songs we want."

'Start Something' is one of the most highly anticipated second albums in a long time. It was originally due for release in 2002 but the finishing touches hadn't been completed by the original scheduled date and so the release date was pushed back. The band had been confirmed to perform at the Carling Weekend in Leeds and Reading in August '03 but these festival appearances ended up being cancelled, much to the disappointment of both fans and the band. But of course it had to be done as you can't rush something as important as an album. To a band member, an album is like a body part. Rushing it would be like injuring themselves, hurting themselves, disabling themselves.
So what's the album actually like then? Let's find out about a few of the songs…
The first one that comes to mind is 'Hello Again'.
"It's got a gothic feel to it," says Mike. "It's got a moody theme but at the same time an uplifting theme."
"Sounds kinda like Depeche Mode/Billy Idol, and Sisters Of Mercy,' describes Ian.
"Played by us," add Stuart.
"It reminds me of Sisters Of Mercy, Billy Idol… that kind of 80s synthy goth thing."
"It's kinda like when the Deftones were good. Which is rare these days," jokes Stuart. "When they were good they were very good."
"And when they were bad they were horrid," rhymes Ian.
"When they were bad they sucked worse than Chino's beard. And that sucks," jokes Stuart.

When asked if they have any favourites on the album, the crazy boys carry on joking about beards.
Ian goes first. "Beards? Amish beards are nice. Glen from One Minute Silence used to have a nice beard. A tramline running."
"Who else had a nice beard?" Stuart ponderingly asks.
"Karl from earthtone9," prompts Mike.
"And Pepe De Marco. He had a pencil thin beard," says Ian.
"That was dashing."
"That was exquisite."
"John Waters had a great moustache," pipes up Mike again.
"Not a beard though. Brad Pitt can do a mean beard."
"That guy can get away with anything though," reckons Stuart.
"Apart from a skinhead."
"Johnny Depp," Mike adds, still with his thinking cap on. "I don't know if Johnny Depp could pull off a skinhead," says Ian.
"He looks pretty fucking bald in Fear And Loathing," remarks Mike.

Once the beard talk was out of the way, we get back to the album. "My favourite is probably 'Sway'," says Mike, "because it's got that ambient, laid-back, chill-out vibe. Us meets…"
"Cocteau Twins," Stuart bursts in. The guys have got a habit of finishing each other's sentences off if you haven't already guessed - or just butting in when another one's talking.
Mike laughs, "Cocteau Twins. It's hard to describe. It's kinda Portishead-y. Us playing Portishead/Massive Attack.
"It's my uncle basically," says Stuart, quite bizarrely.

Ian's favourite song is 'A Million Miles', "Eric (Valentine - producer) was trying to control us on the whole album so we didn't too mad and that was the song where he just let us go mad. So everything's on it. It's got a full string section, shouting, screaming, eight million time changes everywhere. It's the song that sounds most like us I think. The most undiluted Lostprophets. Not touched by any outside hands is 'A Million Miles'. It just goes everywhere."
"We wrote all the songs ourselves, but we let him kinda shape us a little bit," says Stuart. "He said 'boys, do you need to scream through that bit?' and we're like 'nah, not really' so we calmed down."
"Do you really need that section?"
"Do you really need that time change? No you don't. It makes more sense if you do this and do this. And we're like 'oh yeah'. And we just learned how to write songs a bit better, you know."
But doesn't a producer telling you not to add certain things or change certain things take a bit away from what the band is though? Doesn't it become a bit more 'his album' rather than 'your album'?
Ian doesn't think so. "You need to learn. If you're that arrogant to say 'I'm not going to listen to anybody and what I know is right then you're not going to get anywhere and you're just going to keep treading water. So you have to listen to someone sometime, y'know. Even the best artists in the world were taught. They trained under somebody, then they went off and found their own thing."
"He was totally on the same page as us," verifies Mike. "He heard what we wanted so he kind of helped us get there. He helped us get from A to B in a straight line."
"And we wanted to learn 'cause we'd never had anybody help us or show us how to do things. And we didn't have to listen to him, y'know. He said a lot of stuff and we went 'no', 'no way'."
Like what?
"Just weird harmony chord changes from minor to major to minor, a major 3rd to a minor 2nd and stuff," answers Ian. "We said it's not us. Like Beatles chords. It's hard to describe. They go major to minor."
"It's really clever but it's not us," says Stuart. "You could tell that there'd been someone else helping us out."
"So there was a lot of stuff we didn't do, but then a lot of his ideas were pretty cool. It was just like, we wanted to learn. Why use a producer that good and then disregard everything he says?"
The guys reckon they've learnt a lot from Eric.
"Our next album is going to be even sicker than this one," informs Mike.
"It's gonna be some sick shit that makes mad Davey Draiman lose his pipe!" jokes Stuart.
Ian laughs, "He's gonna spit out his pipe and there's going to be tobacco everywhere!"
The band are just joking about David Draiman, who seems to receive quite his share of cruelty. Finch have had a go at him in the past. Stuart says he's just an easy target and was the first person he thought of. Ian calls Stuart a bully and adds, "I heard he's a really nice guy."

On 28.06.03 the band wrote on their website news section 'we want to make a BIG album. We may never get the chance again," and "if we don't sell any records then we'll be on an indie label for the rest of our lives'. The band usually sound very confident, but that doesn't sound so confident.
"It's just the way it is," clarifies Ian. "No matter how good you think the album is and no matter how much label support you've got, you just can't predict whether people will buy your album."
"It's just being realistic."
"The Darkness released loads of singles last year and nobody even sniffed them and then they released them again a year later and everyone's kind of in the mood for it," loosely analyses Stuart. "We could write the best album we'll ever write and maybe no-one hears it."
"It was the same with us," compares Mike. "We released 'Fake Sound Of Progress', sold 3000 copies in a year, re-released it and sold 120,000 copies a year later. And it was exactly the same thing."
Ian adds, "You just can't predict whether people are going to like it or not. We hope they do. If they don't, whatever; at least we do. It was just a fact that it may happen. Obviously that's not what we want. We want the chance to make big albums for the rest of our lives but we had the chance to do it and you want to take that chance at least once so you've experienced both sides of the spectrum."

'Start Something' includes guest vocals from Good Charlotte. The band joined in with backing vocals on 'Last Train Home'. They tell us how that came about.
"We were all sitting down and they popped in and say 'hey, what's happening guys, what are you doing?' Sat down and talked to them, they were cool guys. We were doing some vocals so we said 'do you want to come and help us out?' so they did."
Neither band had met the other up until that point. It all happened because Good Charlotte were friends with Eric Valentine as he'd also produced their work previously.
"If we didn't tell you what song it was, you'd never know. And it's just another thing for haters to pick up on. 'Oh, Good Charlotte were on one of your songs'."
"Wait till you find out who sang back-up vocals on 'Burn Burn'," teases Stuart.

In one online interview, one of the members stated that in the beginning they didn't really know what they wanted to do or where they wanted to go (there was rap, for instance, on one of the demos in 1998). Ian definitely knows now where he wants to go now. To the top! Seriously though, Stuart reckons that every year you pick up different influences so you are liable to keep changing direction. "You just absorb it. You never know where you're going. You just write songs."

Ian says "I think we've got a much better idea now. With this album I don't think it sounds like anything. There was a point where everything we wrote sounded like Thrice and the whole emo, screamo, streamo, beamo, sleamo movement. We thought 'no, we're better than this. We don't have to follow anybody. We do our thing'. And with this album we've succeeded. It sounds like us. It doesn't really sound like anything else. So I think we're getting a better idea of what we are."
The guys say they don't regret anything they've done in the past or wish they could have changed it.
"Everything happens for a reason," says Ian. He then jokes, "Jamie's had some mad fashion choices! We're not stupid and anything we do, we do think about it and the consequences, repercussions. We take that on board."

Since the recording of the album, the self-proclaimed internet addicts seem to have acquired a taste for online friend community sites. Yes, if you see a Lostprophet member on Friendster, it IS the real thing - unlike some other bandmembers you might find on there.
"I'm just on Friendster!" says Ian.
And Myspace.
"I only went on Myspace because someone sent me a thing inviting me to Myspace. I said 'alright'."
"I haven't added anyone on Myspace," says Mike.
"Have people added you?" asks Ian.
"Yeah, I've got about 20 friends," Mike replies.
There are more and more bands joining Friendster; signing up as the band and allowing absolutely anyone to add them as a friend.
"I hate it when you go on Friendster and you see a band on there and it's like their fan club kinda thing. That sucks balls whack," says Stuart.
You don't wanna go on there to promote your band. I went on there 'cause everybody else was on there and I felt left out," adds Mike. "Everyone was like 'you've gotta check out Friendster' and I was like 'fuck off am I going on Friendster."
Ian says it's good how you can get back in touch with old friends and contacts you haven't heard from in a while.
"I've met a bunch of cool people on there," further endorses Mike. "I've made quite a few new friends on there, as gay as it sounds."
There's a friend limit of 500 on Friendster. Ian says he's not going to set up a second account to keep going when he reaches the max like a lot of the band's do, despite not being that far off 500 at the time of this interview.
"Now I'm at 400, I'm like whatever."
"I've got 32!" pipes up Stuart, who only recently joined.
Everyone laughs.

The band are allowed to become addicted to Friendster and the net. They don't really have many other vices. Three of the six members are straight edge (like yours truly).
"Back in the day I used to drink," recalls Ian. "I've been drunk three times in my life. I didn't like it. I've been straight edge for ten years. Didn't like the taste, wasn't really interested. Experimented with drugs. Did it once. Again, some people do it and they obviously get hooked. I did it, it just didn't interest me at all. Experienced it - 'Oh, that's what it feels like. Not interested'. Never had the urge to smoke as I didn't see the point in it. That was it."
Despite being one of the drinkers Stuart says, "You can have a laugh without the beer". Stuart says sometimes he'll go months without drinking and then other times he'll drink quite a bit.
"Why is it deemed that society says you should drink and if you don't drink you're boring or whatever?" asks Mike. "I can act like a prick without drinking. We were in Glasgow last night. We were all dancing and acting like twats. I wasn't drunk. I don't need drink to have a good time. When I was about 19 I used to get drunk a lot and I was just like 'I don't wanna drink anymore'. I was having a worse time when I went out and got drunk then when I was sober. So I was like 'this is whack', so I stopped doing it and that was it."
Surprisingly other bands don't try to get them to drink or take drugs when they're out on the road.
"Usually we tour with like-minded people, 'cause that's what's important to us. The people that we tour with are cool. We'd rather take cool people out than because we think they're a good band. What I mean is, personality is more important to us than the music."
"We're always offered five bands," notifies Stuart. "And then out of those five bands we'll think which ones we get on with the most. The music's gotta be cool as well but if the guys are cool we'll take them out."
He continues, "Anyone in the so-called alternative music scene knows what straight edge means and has enough respect and if they don't they can fuck off. Anyone in our age group knows what straight edge means. You wouldn't take the piss out of someone who's vegetarian would you? If you would, you're a prick."
"It's kinda retarded you know," adds Mike. "There was a post on our message board a couple of weeks ago about a straightedge question. I was baffled by how many people were ignorant to it. Some people were like 'my friend's half-edge'. It's like you're either straight edge or you're not. That was one of the reasons why when we first started playing I drew Xes on my hands and then one of the reasons why I stopped doing that was because I'd get kids coming up to me saying 'I'm straightedge now… except for at Christmas'."
"And kids used to put them on their hands," says Stuart.
"Yeah," says Mike, "and it means too much to me to have people not understanding it or taking it the wrong way, so that's why I stopped doing it. I don't want to influence anyone to do this for the wrong reason. I don't want anyone to do it because it's cool. I don't want anyone to do it because I do or for whatever other reason. I want people to do it… people should become straight edge because that's what they want to do. It's supposed to be a life-time commitment."
But what if seeing their hero do something helps them actually think about it?
"That's why I would rather talk about it in interviews, 'cause at least then I can explain about it rather than some people might see an X on the back of your hand and they might think it looks cool and then they'll do it 'cause it looks cool. It's like 'ah, I want Xs on my hands too' rather than thinking about everything else whereas in an interview saying you're straightedge can come across as sounding kind of boring and you haven't got the fashion of having an X on the back of your hand to go with that so I would rather sit down and discuss it with somebody for half an hour or whatever it is rather than just go onstage and make a big fucking statement with an X on my hand."

So the band, without Xs on their hands, will now go out on the road in support of 'Start Something'. In November, they supported Linkin Park in the UK, while the first month of 2004 saw them head down under for the Big Day Out festival. So guys, any funny touring stories you can tell us about?
"We've had some disasters," says Mike thinking about the band's touring history. "The first time we went into Europe with Pitchshifter years ago we broke down in Brussels on the busiest intersection in Brussels. Lee was driving. We were all in bed in the back of the way. He came back and was like 'we've broke down' and came to bed. And that was it. We were stranded on this intersection. We put a little triangle out behind the bus on this busy intersection, blocked this whole intersection for three hours while we were waiting for this thing."
Then he remembers a tale from Ozzfest. "Nicking Kelly Osbourne's cart at Ozzfest last year was kinda cool. Kelly had known us for quite a bit so I said 'can I borrow your golf cart?' and she said 'go on then' so we crossed out her name on the front of the go-cart and put our name. It was us and some of the guys in Glassjaw running around on this golf-cart. And there was a golf course right next to the Ozzfest site so we were just bombing across the golf course. We had four official golf course carts trying to chase us off this golf course. So then we were going round this road on this golf cart with a cop car behind us so we swerved into the woods and then we drove the golf cart into a bunch of portaloos. And then we got caught by Ozzfest security and given warnings. If you were there you'd be pissing your pants.
Unfortunately we weren't. If only we had've been. Well, anyway… if you happen to own any golf carts and Lostprophets are playing near you, watch out - they might end up running away with them. In the meantime, buy 'Start Something' and watch as THAT runs away with YOUR heart!

Visit www.lostprophets.com for more info.



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