Interview – Show & Tell Online 2004
Author: Scott Sisi
Date: 9th April 2004
Link: Show & Tell Online
Six guys from South Wales with pretty faces and coifed hair? Sounds sweet… until they punch you in the mouth. That wasn’t a metaphor for hard-hitting music, I meant literally punch you in the mouth. Go ahead and call them sweet, I dare you.
Don’t let the mousse or the accents fool you, these are working class, street-smart kids from an area known more for its coal mining than its dandies.
Six guys from South Wales unconcerned with what the press thinks they look like or sound like. They know the kids get it; they’re turning up in droves to see them play live.
And for good reason. A live performance by Lostprophets is like a cold beer on a hot day; a no bullshit refreshment that leaves you wanting another as soon as its gone.
“Honey, grab me another Lostprophets, please?”
The madness that’s been following them around as they tour in support of new release Start Something saw us reschedule twice before nailing down keyboardist/programmer Jamie Oliver on his cell.
Here’s what Jamie had to say; his candor as refreshing as their live show…
S&T: How’s it going, Jamie?
J: Not too bad. Been stuck in a car for the last three hours.
S&T: Where are you?
J: We’re in Miami, I think. Somewhere in Florida anyway. We just visited a radio station and then we travel like an hour and a half and we’re lost on the way back to the venue, so (laughter in the background).
S&T: You’re on your way back to the venue now?
J: Yeah, we’re attempting to get back but there’s a woman driving (driver laughing in the background). What can you do?
S&T: (laughs) It happens. There should be laws damnit!
J: (laughs) I’m gonna get dropped off here actually, they’re gonna kick me out!
S&T: (laughs) How’s everything else going?
J: Good. It’s good fun. The tour’s pretty awesome, you know?
S&T: Originally I was supposed to talk to you when you were up in NJ, the day of the Starland Ballroom show?
J: Right, right, yeah.
S&T: But apparently that day got completely insane for you guys.
J: It’s kinda been like that everywhere we’ve been, you know what I mean? Like literally we should have been back at the venue at 2:00 for sign in, you know, and it’s 3:00 now and we’re nowhere near it, so… It’s just been like this every day. But that’s good, we’ve been keeping busy. It’s a good thing.
S&T: Has the demand for press and to get a piece of you guys been bigger then you expected?
J: Maybe people are doing their jobs at last, you know (laughs). I guess we’re a better machine all around, people who work with us. I think this time around now that we’ve established ourselves in the underground maybe people are just like ready to do the push with the new record.
S&T: I don’t think you guys are underground anymore, I was at that (packed) Starland Ballroom show.
J: Yeah. After the first record I’d like to think we were, you know what I mean. With this one now we’re about ready to, not crossover but get that push that most bands get on their first record. And it’s a good sign when the label are confident in our record and they want to work it and people are excited. The fact that people want to talk to us… like I said, if we weren’t busy there’d be alarm bells goin’ off.
S&T: It’s a great album, congratulations.
J: Thank you very much. We finally got to do it! (laughs)
S&T: When did you stop touring Fake Sound (Of Progress)?
J: We stopped in two thousand and three? Hang on, no we didn’t. We stopped in two thousand and two. November time we did like a UK tour and then we locked ourselves in the studio where we live in Wales and we just started writing. We started completely from fresh again, we didn’t use any ideas that we’ve had over the last three years previous to that. We just went in with just like a complete clean blackboard, started writing from there.
S&T: You didn’t do any writing on the road?
J: Well we had been doing a lot of writing on the road but then, because it’d been such a long time in-between the actual recording of the Fake Sound and the writing for the next record. What we didn’t want to happen was… by the time we recorded and released it, the songs would be three years old, you know what I mean?
S&T: Which is pretty much what happened with Fake Sound, right? Originally you put it out in ’99 and it takes several years before it gets (released in the states).
J: Yeah. And think about it. There were songs on there that were written in ’97. In 2002 people were saying, “Oh, this record sounds dated, sounds old, it doesn’t do this, it doesn’t…” It’s ’cause, yeah, it was! Some of the songs are like five years old, of course they sound old. The Fake Sound was written like well in advance of anything like Linkin Park, you know what I mean, there were no bands like that and we were like very underground, doin’ our own thing. Nobody wanted to book us, nobody wanted to play us.
S&T: Right. So basically you got off the road, went to the space and you were like let’s start completely from scratch.
J: Yeah, and I mean it was a good feeling ’cause like after the first week we’d written like 9 songs. We were like, “wow, this is awesome.” Eventually when we had to record it, we had like 35 songs that we had to kinda whittle down and make into like, y’know… I think we recorded 17 songs? It was getting less and less, you know, ’cause we would’ve put all 17 songs on the record. It would’ve been like a 2 hour epic. But we understood when people were saying it could kinda get boring if you put too much stuff on there, you know what I mean. ‘Cause I’ve had records where there’s been like 15 songs on there and, you know anything more than 10 or 12 and it’s like, “okay.”
S&T: As long as it’s not just filler, I’m okay. As long as it’s not 17 songs for the sake of doing 17 songs. I’d rather have 8 good songs than 8 songs plus 4 songs that they put on there to just fill time.
J: Yeah, I mean that’s good but in general I think the consensus is people who are not into music probably quite as much as we are, they just buy a CD now and again, maybe they would get bored, you know what I mean.
S&T: What’s the process when you have that many guys in the room?
J: We just go in, it’s really organic. It’s never contrived. We try… now this is the other problem with writing on the road. We tried writing on the road and if you’re working with like a Pro Tools rig or 16 Track, and you’ve got to layer stuff, it just doesn’t feel organic. We like to jam and stuff. When we locked ourselves into the studio, we didn’t think things, we didn’t sit there over-analyzing anything, we just let it come out and we trusted in each other’s instinct and influences to come through in their playing ability rather than sit there and say, “let’s go, let’s do a slow song.” We just played. And you know when it works, those hands and the arms go up and everybody’s giggling like little kids, you know what I mean. A lot of time it doesn’t work and then some of the time you get some magic happens, you know. We had enough time this time to get enough magic to make an album. That’s why we explored every avenue on this record. Literally we tried every single idea and it’s such a good feeling to be on the back end of that knowing that everything that’s been put on there was the right and the best thing we could possibly come up with for that particular song.
S&T: There was a comment someone wrote about the album that I thought was pretty good. They were trying to explain your crossover appeal. They said, “it’s pop enough for girls but heavy enough for boys.”
S&T: What do you think?
J: I think it’s pop enough for boys as well, I think. There’s a lot of pop boys out there. You meet a lot of different fans with a lot of difference of opinions. Generally the guys don’t like you because their girlfriends do (laughs). I like it just being described as good. Somebody likes the music and they don’t get caught up in the way that we look. If they like it good, if you don’t like it… A lot of people get caught up with other things.
S&T: I read a lot of articles on you guys and I can’t tell you which I found more annoying: The actual amount of crap you seem to get or being constantly asked about the amount of crap you seem to get.
S&T: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band that gets as much attention to other stuff as you guys do.
J: That’s it exactly.
S&T: It’s always the hair, the style…
J: I know. It’s kinda ridiculous, you know. That’s why we’re the band people love to hate. Because we’re pretty much an easy target. Our personalities, we’re very sort of cheeky and happy go lucky. I mean we’re serious about the music but not overly serious about the way we carry ourselves. And people get upset by that because they think we’re not serious. But that’s just our nature, we’re just working class kids, we’re best friends since we are kids. People think, “they’re just cheeky, they’re arrogant or over-confident.” They think that we’re pretty boys and therefore we can’t hold our own. That’s not a problem. They can come and see me and I’ll knock them the fuck out (laughs). That’s the worst thing about our band. Though we look this way and we carry ourselves this way, we’re Welsh working class kids and we’ve grown up on an appetite of punching people when they get on our nerves.
S&T: (laughs) You’re touring on a bus, right?
J: Yes, we’re on a bus.
S&T: What kind of crew do you have out with you?
J: We brought our usual guys with us. (ed.’s note: The background noise in the van begins, at this point, to get louder and louder making it increasingly more difficult to hear Jamie until, in a few moments, he pauses to request they quiet down.) Honestly we were friends way before we were a band and when we take on crew we’ve got a commitment to them, we let them into our… Shut the fuck up!… into our circle, you know what I mean, and take them in. There’s about three or four people that have been with us like literally from the beginning. (laughs) Did you hear me lose my temper there, that was funny.
S&T: I did, that was good.
J: See, Welsh. I told you!
S&T: You did, I got scared there for a second. Don’t hit anybody!
S&T: So on the web site, they refer constantly to you as “the band drunk.”
J: (laughs) Yeah, I guess that’s kinda true. I’m the joker, I’m the one that when I do get drunk the straight edge boys can push me in front of buses and it’s really funny. They can throw balls at me and I laugh it off. That’s why I’m here, I’m the entertainment. I’m the TV when they haven’t got any signals.
S&T: Is the rest of the band sober?
J: Pretty much at the moment. A few of them are straight edge but, you know, they don’t preach it, they don’t make a big deal about it. The band isn’t a straight edge band, we’re not that way, the other two are just not really into alcohol at the moment and I like to have a drink now and then. It’s everybody’s personal decision. I don’t get in their face about it and they don’t get into mine. We’re pretty insane without alcohol. When you add an element like myself with alcohol then it gets very much out of hand, which is the way we like it (laughs).
S&T: (laughs) This tour runs through the end of April. What’s after that?
J: I think we’re gonna do some shows of our own, the west coast. And then after that we’re gonna go back to Europe ’cause we’ve got a support slot on the Metallica tour. That should be interesting. (laughs) A lot of cheering people, “Metallica! Metallica!” all through our set. And then we do some festivals in and around Europe. And I think we’re back then. Possibly our own tour, I don’t know.
S&T: The crowd the night I saw you was absolutely amazing. The first thing I thought of when you guys were playing was (headliners) Hoobastank must be in their dressing room dreading having to come out and follow you guys.
S&T: And even when they did come out it seemed like most of those kids had come there to see you guys.
J: Yeah, it’s a good feeling, you know, the way that they’re responding. It’s even better when you can tell not a lot of people know the words to the songs… ‘Cause I think that’s what separates us entirely from like the Hoobastank crowd, is people sing along to their songs because they’re on MTV all the time and everybody knows the words of all their million singles they’ve had. Not a lot of people know the words to our music but they get into it regardless, which is probably a good sign that we’re winning over a lot of people with just the passion of our performance and that means so much more than, you know, coming along for a bit of a karaoke night.
S&T: (laughs) How does the press back home compare with the press here?
J: The press back home is tabloids, entirely. There’s no in-between.
S&T: All rag mag stuff?
J: They don’t report facts, they just need to… they’re such whores for selling their product that they sensationalize absolutely everything in order to make numbers, sell magazines, sell newspapers. And it’s bullshit because every single week it’s “The new best band ever, being the best thing that ever came from anything!” and then the next week it’s something different and the band that they thought was amazing is now “The crappest band in the world!” So it’s complete bullshit and we don’t fucking bother about it too much because they don’t buy our records. The press don’t buy our records, the kids buy our records. I bought records when I was a kid and I read magazines and I paid no attention to them anyway. If I liked the band, I liked the band. They don’t have the power that they think they have. A perfect example is Andrew WK and Nickelback. The press hates Nickelback, absolutely hates Nickelback but Nickelback sells records in the billions and the press heralded Andrew WK as the new world savior of rock and roll music and the guy didn’t sell any records. They can throw it down people’s throats as much as they want, they don’t have the influence over people that they actually think they have.
S&T: Do you think that’s the case here as well?
J: I think that you actually report on music, you don’t sensationalize it as much, you know what I mean. It’s a simple this is good for this reason, this is bad for this reason, you listen to the music and you’ve given a description and an opinion whereas in the UK they don’t even do that. They don’t listen to the music. I mean, we’ve been called rap metal. I mean, if you can find any rapping on any of our CDs ever then show it to me, please. And it just proves that these people don’t listen to it, they jump to conclusions, and they read something on the internet and regurgitate it. It’s bullshit. If people don’t like you for valid reasons, fair enough.
S&T: Tell me a little bit about your artwork. You’re a painter?
J: Yeah, I was a painter actually, before I joined the band. I’d done my honorary degree and my masters in fine arts.
S&T: That’s actually my background as well, what the hell are we doing here?
J: Well, we have to make a living (laughter). It’s something I can’t really do much of, it’s in my nature to actually follow my gut instincts and with the band it felt right at the time and I went after it. I’ll always go back to painting because that’s my passion and that’s the thing that I need to do because it’s my form of expression. Right now my time is committed entirely, 110% to the band. And I guess that’s why I don’t talk too much about what I do on my own because I really love this band, I’d rather be promoting the band than myself.
S&T: I know you’re pressed for time so just a couple more questions and I’ll let you go. Just take me through a typical day on this tour, 24 hours…
J: Like today, I was up ’til 5:00 in the morning, listening to live performances because we need to decide what are gonna be our B-sides, and then I get up at 9:00, get in the car, travel an hour and a half, two hours to a radio station, travel another two hours back, grab a bit of fast food on the way back, get back and do a sign in, do some more phoners and interviews, um, what would I do after that? I’d go and sound check if I get an opportunity, maybe I’d have like half hour to sort of chill before the first band goes on, and then I start to warm up, play, get really drunk, forget who I am, hopefully somebody will find me and put me in my bunk… Maybe I’ll wet the bed (laughs), I don’t know. And then start over again! Awesome. It’s a fantasy lifestyle and I love every minute of it (laughter). And I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I’m still exactly the same. The way you’re perceived is never really anywhere near the truth of it. Everybody thinks we’re rich rock stars, they couldn’t be further from the truth. You imagine bands just do nothing in a day and then go and play but, you know, it can be physically tiring? We never see it as work, work is working in a hospital, like in intensive care or something, that’s fucking work. And the payoff of actually getting to perform and the buzz of actually performing every night just totally, totally outweighs any of the down periods where you feel a bit tired and grouchy.
That 45 minutes makes up for everything else, it really does. I know it’s a cliche.
S&T: Yeah, but cliches usually come from a place of truth. Like stereotypes. Like women drivers.
J: (laughs) Women drivers!
S&T: There, we’re full circle.
J: (laughs) Awesome.
S&T: Jamie, thanks so much for your time. An absolute pleasure talking to you.
J: And you, man.
S&T: Good luck the rest of the way.
J: Thanks for talking to me, take care.