Bad For Lazarus are a weird band. Delightfully weird. We’ll leave it there. In this interview we chat with two members of the band, Rich Fownes (formerly of Nine Inch Nails [sort of], Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster and UNKLE) and Dom Knight (Eighties Matchbox, Screaming Tupelo) to talk about their first full-length record ‘Life’s A Carnival…’ and (attempt) to uncover more about their individual musical endeavours.
“Everything else was just practice to do this well” – Rich Fownes
S] Now then! How’s it going? What are you up to today – set the scene for us?
R] “It’s a good day to ask. We’ve just been to the bank to set up our label Shit Chic officially. Now it’s more than a stupid idea, it’s a stupid business.”
S] How is the Bad For Lazarus label Shit Chic run, and what are your plans for it?
R] “At the moment it’s just us, but I think we’re going to do a compilation, hopefully early next year. And after that we’re thinking of releasing some friends. But at the moment it’s all hands on deck for this record.”
S] Forthcoming single, ‘My Muddle’ sounds great. What experiences inspired that track?
R] “Musically it was just us joking more than anything. At one point in the demo process it sounded exactly like ‘My Name Is’ [Eminem]. If an idea makes us laugh, it’s generally a keeper. Lyrically, we happened to be watching loads of infowars conspiracy and New World Order movies that week so, really it’s just us laughing at all that.”
S] ‘Life’s A Carnival, Bang! Bang! Bang!’ – why have you chosen that as the title for the record?
R] “That name’s been kicking around for years. An old friend used to visit a bit of a sad-case drug dealer who was obviously delusional. He always had the curtains drawn, had the clammiest handshake ever – I don’t want think what he was doing with them before we turned up – and would always rant and rave rhetoric at us, In one speech to my mate he was trying to tell him how easy it is to take life by the balls and just blurted out: ‘Life’s A Carnival, Bang! Bang! Bang!’ and I pretty much knew whatever my first record was going to be, it would be called that!”
S] Can you talk us through a couple of your favourite tracks from the new record, and why you love them so much?
R] “That changes every five minutes. At the moment I love a song called ‘Rah Rah Ooo’. I think it’ll open the album, it’s got a few weird sensibilities mashed up at once, and it’s really effortless. Big doom metal riffs with proper ‘doo-wop’ backing vocals. It probably sounds sh** [to you], but it’s not. It’s good.”
S] How do the members of Bad For Lazarus feel about trends in music like dubstep?
D] “To be honest, there is some Canadian dubstep I like, but overall, it just makes me feel like an old man with a hearing aid, shouting at the kids across the street to turn down their boom box. Like all music, it works if you do it properly, but it’s just an over-saturated market with too many people making boring beats with a ‘wub’ over the top.”
R] “What’s dubstep?”
S] How did your collaborations with Kosheen (mixing) and Toydrum (production) come about for the new album?
R] “Toydrum is Pablo Clements [UNKLE] and James Griffith [Lake Trout] who I met when I played guitar in the UNKLE live band. They run the best studio in Brighton, and we get on really well so it was a no-brainer to have them produce it. Darren [Beale] from Kosheen is an old friend of our manager. He’s mixed more tracks than I’ve had hot dinners. We’re pretty lucky!”
S] And what about working with The Duke Spirit’s Liela Moss – how was that?
R] “Lovely times. That band are pretty much the nicest one in rock music. We met through the UNKLE days as well. We had a song knocking around that my girlfriend had sung on – it was from the point of view of a [previous] abhorrent, psychopath ex, she was sending me a couple of hundred texts a day full of the craziest stuff, things I had to talk to the police about – so we kinda forgot about the song as it just didn’t work having a guy sing it.
I forget how or why we thought to ask Liela to sing, but it’s pretty amazing that she said yes to us. I felt pretty weird handing her that lyric sheet as well, I was relieved she wasn’t offended about being asked to play the part of a psycho bitch. She’s got such a magic to her voice, as soon as she just did a warm-up run-through, we all had goosebumps and tingles down our spine. She is one talented lady.”
S] With all these connections in mind, is it all about who you know in the music industry in 2012?
R] “No. I knew as many people when we were shit, and no-one turned up.”
S] Dom, you recently directed a video for Black Moth – can you talk to us more about that?
D] “Black Moth supported Matchbox at The Cockpit in Leeds a few years ago as their former band The Bacchae, and we’d just kind of stayed in touch, bumping into each other on the circuit as it were. Harriet [Bevan, vocals] mentioned one day that they were looking for someone to make them a music video, and it seemed like a good idea at the time; I’d never made one before so it was all trial and error, and they were very patient with my erratic filming and ideas. I’ve since set up a film company called Mutoscope with Doc Foster, our photographer, and am working on a few more videos as we speak. This includes the ‘My Muddle’ video that should be out just before the single in November.”
S] Rich, a lot of people have asked – you were announced to join Nine Inch Nails a few years back. You were with them for one week, but there’s been no official word on what happened – can you shed any light?
R] “I must have done some dodgy acid or something. I had an extended three week trip that was all about Hollywood and sushi restaurants. I don’t remember it well but they tell me I came to in a flat in Kemptown [Brighton], dripping with sweat, mumbling incoherently about being on the precipice of mount rock. It’s fine now though, I just needed some orange juice and cuddles.”
S] Rich, do you still have a good relationship with the guys from NIN, 80’s Matchbox and UNKLE, and do they support Bad For Lazarus’ sound?
R] “I don’t really know. We’re good friends with most of those guys on a personal level, but we’re in pretty different scenes professionally so we don’t really get involved with each others’ bands.”
S] Rich, as a follow up, since you’ve been part of Eighties Matchbox B-Line and UNKLE as well as Nine Inch Nails, is it a good idea to meet your heroes?
R] “Well. I wouldn’t take anything back as a rule. But if you have got people in a special, untouchable place in your heart, leave it that way I’d say. Let it be fun. I had an indirect invitation to some party Nick Cave was hosting a couple of years ago, but I’d rather just enjoy his genius without thinking of that time I said something dweeby or spilt wine on his rug.”
S] Rich, are you happy to constantly be referenced alongside these acts alongside Bad For Lazarus?
R] “Sure! They’re fu**ing good bands! I’m not Charlie [Simpson] from Busted [and Fightstar].”
S] Rich, you’ve referenced Bad For Lazarus as your re-birth before now? Can you go deeper into that for us, and have you achieved that?
R] “It’s not even a rebirth so much as my birth. Everything else was just practice and experience to do this well.”
S] You’re all involved in a range of other music projects as well; can you introduce some of them – Dom has Screaming Tupelo, and Rich, you have With Scissors?
D] “Screaming Tupelo was my first foray into the world of live music; the point where I decided to get off my arse and start gigging properly. I did the London blues and garage circuit for about two years, playing with people like D66, Honkeyfinger and JD Smith; before moving to Brighton and joining Matchbox, it kind of died from there.
The only reason I ever did a one man band was because there were never enough like-minded musicians where I was living at the time so it just seemed to be the only option. Once you join a touring band with people you like, there isn’t much appeal to sitting on a train on your own, lugging a tonne of gear to each show. I think we’ll probably put out a Tupelo EP on Shit Chic at some point in the future, but it’s nothing I really want to focus on right now.”
R] “Yeah. We don’t play in any other stuff at the moment, we’re all got a lot left to express in this band right now.”
S] What are some of your defining moments working as musicians – things and experiences that you will never forget and why?
R] “On the first UNKLE tour we were booked some crazy shows. We’d only been playing a month in the studio [as a live band], and our fifth gig together was playing after Muse at Benicassim. I was watching them ‘destroy it’, thinking ‘How the fuck am I supposed to play guitar on-stage after that guy!?’ I was stretching behind the stage, and I started to feel this really tight headache. It turned out I had water poisoning from eating some salad when we got there. Within minutes I was feeling so insanely bogus, my vision was blurry and if I moved head at all I had a massive shooting pain down my head and spine. I gave it my best through the gig, but it probably wasn’t my best show.
I remember forcing myself to look up at the crowd to try and remember how big it was, but the movement and the lights destroyed my head. By the encore I was standing just off the side of the stage, spewing my guts out relentlessly, while my tech, Jeff, just watched me with the saddest eyes, holding a hand-towel, as if he was going to wipe it up if it would ever stop. Once the gig was done I had five hours to catch a plane from Spain to Manchester, alone (with three flight cases) to make it back in time to do a two week tour with Eighties Matchbox. They drove me to an airport with Patrick Wolf’s sound engineer, a woman who needed to be taken to A&E because she had just accidentally bitten off most of her top lip, which was just dangling in front of me while I sweated and puked out the fever. The airport was as much fun as you can imagine. I had to weigh up leaving all my guitars and pedals alone to get confiscated or marked as a bomb threat versus not chundering violently in a foreign airport alone. I don’t know the Spanish custom, but I don’t think they like that kind of thing. I don’t remember how I got through it but I made it to Manchester before the rest of the band. We wrapped that tour and again I only had a matter of hours to join another UNKLE stint. Any time in between was spent listening to the impending set on headphones to try and get ready to nail it for a completely different band. The reason it comes to mind is because at no point did I ever think ‘Why am I doing this?’. If it was a day job I would have walked as soon as I got that first headache, but it’s not hardships when it’s something so important to your life’s work, it’s just anecdotal and a part of the process.”
D] “For me, touring with Matchbox was a real eye-opener. The reality of playing shows every night for three weeks or a month is a lot of weight to put on the mind and soul. Staying sane is the biggest battle. I love touring, it’s the best part about this job, but there are always those days that take a lot of work to get through. I think that’s one of the reason’s that this bands works so well together is that we are all on the same kind of level, all our personalities are pretty chilled, so we never really have bust ups when the sh** hits the fan for any reason. We’ve been through a lot of stupid sh** together and every time we become closer, as corny as it sounds. Staying awake for 36 hours and driving from Glasgow to Brighton, show to show, and breaking down half way home was probably one of our most trying times together, but it was a raucous gig and we all got to bed in the end. They all just end up as the usual stupid tour story.”
S] What are the plans for the rest of 2012?
R] “Releasing our first proper single! We’ve released other bits and bobs before, but not with this, our definitive line-up, and our definitive sound. Beyond that, playing some awesome shows with new and old friends like Turbowolf, Castrovalva, Exit_International and Black Moth. Oh, and getting on with the next record.”
S] What on earth inspired (producer) Chris Goss (The Cult, Queens Of The Stone Age) to write that short poem about your band?
R] “I guess he must just think we’re super-cool.”
S] Does Craig Charles (Red Dwarf) really love Bad For Lazarus that much?
R] “Yeah. He bought us lunch.”
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