Death In Vegas on their latest album
It’s a warm, sunny Spring Monday in Sydney, yet Richard Fearless sits in a hotel café feeling a little down in the dumps. With technical problems having hindered the Death In Vegas’ set at Harvest Festival the day before, he talks about how gutted he and his band were after they stepped off stage. However, it’s fair to say that his frustration is a little misplaced. Their display, in fact, was so storming that hardly anyone in the crowd will have noticed problems with the sound. The reaction was fervent from punters and fellow acts alike.
“Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips came up to us afterwards and said he thought it was brilliant and asked if he could do some work with us,” says Fearless, his frown turning to a smile. If that was a bad show, then their good ones must be mind-blowing. “I’m getting more of a buzz from this tour than the previous ones because it’s more live,” he explains. “If we do a great show it’s amazing and if not, then it’s crap. Before it was very much like trying to take out a studio-based project. It was too formulaic. The parts were locked in and you couldn’t change it. This is a much more live experience.”
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Death In Vegas. In fact, their last studio album came out seven long years ago. Since then, Fearless spent several years living in Brooklyn studying film and photography, his drive for making music continuing by setting up guitar band Black Acid with a group of fellow New Yorkers. He headed back to live in the UK in 2009 whereon he produced albums for Dark Horses and Von Haze and remixed the likes of Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Hurts, The Kills and The Horrors. Now, in late 2011, the latest Death In Vegas long-player finally hits the shelves. Despite the long wait, there was never any doubt in his mind that there would be another album. “I always knew there was one,” he nods. “I moved to America and I didn’t feel it was the right time to do Death In Vegas when I was over there. It wasn’t until I moved back to England two years ago that I knew I was going to start writing this record.”
Considering it has been so long since his last offering, one wonders whether he felt apprehensive about sending his latest creation, Trans-Love Energies, out into the world. “I was really really nervous about it because when I handed in Satan’s Circus I felt, personally, that it was one of the better records I’d ever made. But that was the first time when we were slightly out of vogue. We weren’t flavour of the month and we got some harsh reviews. Only from a couple of journalists, but I took it really personally. I guess I was quite naïve at that point. It’s just one person’s opinion over another’s but at the time it really knocked me back.”
An extra reason for nerves for Fearless came through the fact that, for the first time, he was taking on lead vocal duties for the bulk of the new record. “It’s a big thing to start singing, if you’re not really a singer. You’re setting yourself up to get slaughtered. I was getting no support from the management. I’d play them the records and they’d be like, ‘Great, who are we going to get to sing on them.’”
So, was Fearless feeling the pressure to get the phone book out and make some calls? “Oh yeah, there was pressure,” he confirms without hesitation. “But I knew I was never going to do that. I didn’t want to make another record full of collaborations. It overshadows the music. Scorpio Rising shouldn’t be about Liam Gallagher and Paul Weller, it should be about recording with Dr. Subramaniam: one of the greatest conductors in India. Touring also gets frustrating. You’ll be in Lyon and they audience will be like ‘Where’s Liam?’”
But the songwriter stuck to his guns. Aside from a couple of collaborations with Katie Stelmanis from Austra, he would be the vocalist on Trans-Love Energies. His decision was cemented by one particular moment. “The big turning point came when Jamie Hince was going to sing on one of the songs but it wasn’t working out. I’d set the mixing dates, so I had a back-up and wrote some lyrics. At a certain time in the early hours in the morning, I’d had a couple of drinks and a couple of spliffs and I went in and did the song in one take. At that point, I knew from everyone’s reaction that I was going to sing on the rest of the record.”
And his nervousness about putting it into the public domain was unfounded. “The reviews starting coming out and they were really good. Q latched on and gave us good review and then Mixmag came out and gave it Dance Album of the Month. So it hit two different areas, which was really cool. I needed that, otherwise I don’t know whether I would have wanted to do another record. But, after that, I have a lot more confidence.”
While Fearless is happy to have his new record out there at last, something that is very different this time around is that not everyone who hears it has actually purchased it. No-one, it seems, wants to buy records anymore. It is something that is giving him quite the headache. “It’s terrible. You work solidly on a record for two years, then two weeks before it comes out, people can get it free on the internet. We had 3000 people on our Facebook page and then our album came out and it went up to 27000 in four days. All of these people have mysteriously got into the band yet the record sales don’t reflect that. I can’t get my head round it. Management keep telling me that I have to start Tweeting. Maybe I’m just showing my age a little bit, but it’s really hard to try to make an amazing record, can’t we just leave it at that. People say ‘you just have to tour more,’ but it’s tough. We’ll tour for a year just so we can carry on. I don’t know what the answer is. ”
The answer might be to do a bit of extra-curricular work, which is something this talented musician is pretty au fait with. He talks of his work on a film score and on a project for the BBC but, despite these other ventures and in spite of his frustration at the music industry, thankfully, we won’t have to wait another seven years for the next Death In Vegas album. “There’s new material,” he confirms. “I’ll try to have a new Death In Vegas record out by mid next year.” He stops, takes a sip of his water and smiles. “I just have to try to work out a way of making some money out of it.”
Interview by Bobby Townsend.