It’s the classic rock ‘n’ roll cliché: young budding musos turn their backs on the stifling frustrations of small-town life, head off to the smoke, and hit the big time. Which is precisely what happened to Feeder after Grant Nicholas and lifelong friend Jon Lee upped sticks in the early 90s from Newport, Gwent, relocated to London, and recruited Tokyo émigré bassist Taka Hirose. But Feeder’s dreams of superstardom were still a long way from being realised, with tragedy striking along the way.
Signing to independents Echo in 95, early releases exhibited distinctly grungy leanings while 99’s masterly ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’ veered more towards a pop-metal mainstream. With a steadily growing fanbase and a succession of singles troubling the chart’s lower regions, it wasn’t until the brash simplicity of the ubiquitous Buck Rogers, from 2001’s ‘Echo Park’, that people sat up and took notice in droves. Feeder were finally getting there. Then, after celebrating a highly successful breakthrough year, in January 2002 Jon Lee was found hanged at his Miami home.
Jon’s suicide could have spelt the end for the band, but, heartened by the support of fans and Lee’s family, Grant and Taka chose to continue as Feeder, recruiting ex-Skunk Anansie powerhouse drummer Mark Richardson. Now a permanent fixture (Grant: "I'd put him right up there with the Dave Grohls of this world”), Mark played on 2002’s cathartic ‘Comfort In Sound’ and this year’s ‘Pushing The Senses’. With a propensity for mellower rock balladeering that now sees them aligned more closely with Coldplay than Nirvana or the Pistols, Feeder are firmly established as one of the UK’s most popular outfits. Mark kindly took some time out of his schedule for a catch-up with us.
SXP: Mark, thanks for taking time to chat to SoundsXP. Before Feeder you beat the skins for Skunk Anansie. How do the two compare?
Mark: I get much more time at home with Feeder. With Skunk I had 2 weeks off at Christmas for 6 years!
SXP: You've been a fixture of Feeder for a while now. How did you get the job?
Mark: I knew the guys since they supported a band I was in called B.L.O.W in '94. We kept in touch and when Jon died, Skunk had split up.
SXP: How was it settling into such an established band given the circumstances?
Mark: It was difficult. I didn't really give it the credit at the time but looking back it was a very strange atmosphere. It’s taken a long time for me to feel like a band member.
SXP: How did you get into drumming and who are/were your guiding lights?
Mark: I used to go to my friend’s house and play his kit. When I was 6 I got my own and I would play along to Buddy Holly and Elvis records. Later I would steal my sister’s Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac and Clash albums, tape them and play along in my bedroom.
SXP: If you weren't drumming, what would you be doing instead?
SXP: Did having to learn the Feeder back catalogue reduce the number of newer songs you play live?
Mark: No. I just learnt all the old stuff anyway so I had it in the bag and then I could relax and concentrate on the new stuff.
SXP: What was it like headlining the new indie day of Download? Did you tailor your set to appeal more to rabid metallers?
Mark: It was great. We tailored the set slightly. We put some heavier stuff in. It was fun playing My Perfect Day and Descend again.
SXP: Are you planning on getting more involved in songwriting, and what influences would you bring to the Feeder sound?
Mark: Grant writes all the songs but hopefully that will change. I love coming up with grooves for tracks (obviously) and jamming. Jamming with other musicians is a great way to write but it’s not everybody's cup of tea.
SXP: Who are you listening to at the moment and which new outfits do you rate?
Mark: Foos, Queens, Swan Lee, James Blunt, Ray LaMontagne, Jack Johnson and Damien Rice. A lot of mellow music.
SXP: What would be your desert island album, book and film?
Mark: Ray LaMontagne, Lord of the Rings, Garden State.
SXP: Fans on Feederweb have asked me to pass on a few questions: - would you ever perform a gig dressed as an animal, and which one?
Mark: No because that would mean I must be playing back in cabaret. A Lion.
SXP: - would you ever pose nude, and where would you put the drumsticks?
Mark: Not my thing I'm afraid. Unless the money was good!!
SXP: - what are you afraid of?
Mark: Not feeling.
SXP: - Tesco, Sainsbury or Waitrose?
SXP: Finally, you've got a Christmas gig at Hammersmith looming on the horizon. What else is on the cards for Feeder?
Mark: Aberdeen, Moscow, then tours of Japan, Australia and UK.
SXP: Mark, thanks again for chatting to us.