Mike Lewis has just had a sandwich and – bear in mind that a man’s happinessis through his stomach – he sits beside me and starts chatting away.Lostprophets band mate Jamie Oliver is nowhere to be found.
The band’s pressofficer thinks he may have gone off to grab a bite to eat. Apparently TheNaked Chef’s namesake is suffering from severe hunger pangs.
So am I, butI’ll have to do without food and just chew off Mike’s words, explainingLiberation Transmission, the Welsh rock band’s thirdrelease, on which they have chosen to work with Bob Rock, the man behind theproduction of such monsters of rock as Metallica, Bon Jovi and Mtley Cre.
But no, Lostprophets don’t sound like another wannabe metal band (also knownas nu metal). They embrace their 80s pop influences more than ever, whilesimultaneously creating a heavier sound and piling on the melody. That’s aword that often comes up in interviews nowadays: everyone claiming theirsound is so melodic in this world of unmelodious rock.
“There hasn’t been any inspiration, really, for the last 10-15 years in theUK of any British bands doing that. The only people still doing that are theAmerican bands. So people will probably look at our music and think itsounds more American because of that,” explains the guitarist whose EnglishI have attempted to correct in the above quote.
Seriously, he’s a nice blokeand proceeds to explain why Lostprophets are one of the few Brit bands thathave relative success Stateside, as we rock journalists love to claim. It’sactually got more to do with population density. “If you mean success byrecord sales, we’ve done well on record sales. And it’s also relative. Wehad sold quite a few records over there. It’s a big place and there’s a lotfor people there. We have a platinum record in the UK. We’re short of aplatinum record in the US.”
Mike is on a roll – my attempts at asking another question are in vain andI’m too polite to interrupt his diatribe – and takes a go at us rockjournos. “Everybody points fingers at us saying that we sound like anAmerican band. But I don’t think they actually mean the accents or the waythat we look. I think maybe the difference between us and UK bands is thatsince Iron Maiden in the rock genre, bands have not really tended to beambitious with their choruses and with the anthemic size of the songs theywere doing,” he offers as an insight.
“British music tends to be a littlebit more jingly-jangly, a little bit more indie, and music people are moreconcerned about being cool and be(ing) in fashion than tend to have a vision ofgrandeur, you know? We’ve never shied away from wanting to do that.” Theycertainly set their visions way up high here by recruiting Bob Rock toproduce pop songs. No, sorry, rock. Um, no…
- Mike Lewis
“We’ve always challengedourselves to write really hooky, poppy. When I say pop, I mean itstraditional sense, when it was not derogatory – The Clash, for instance,was one of the biggest pop bands of my youth. Rock The Casbah has probablythe best chorus ever written, but they still had attitude – pop like DuranDuran and The Police. We’ve always tried to make our songs pretty muchcatchy and write songs as well as we possibly can. And as a result, we tryto make big choruses that people can sing along to.”
Keyboardist Jamie Oliver arrives at last and orders “clear water please”; heapologizes for his tardiness. His press officer has taken over the hunt foredibles and has gone out to get him a sandwich while he munches on a packetof crisps. Looking clueless, he just listens to Mike’s lecture, occasionallynodding his head.
“And that’s probably why we sell over there and other UK bands don’t. Wealso work from the ground level. We’ve never been the hype machine, thefashion band,” Mike continues. Oh, that must be the understatement of theyear, for the two ‘Prophets look quite the ’80s rage indeed. “We’ve alwaysprided ourselves with doing the groundwork and playing showing after showafter show and actually doing it has gotten has the support that we’ve gotrather than the magazines. So we’ve got a really good ethic. Sorry, thatwas a long-winded answer!”
While Mike takes a breather, Jamie offers me acrisp and says, “I think people need more sing-along anthems, or stadiummusic.” Which explains why they chose Bob Rock to produce the album. Ormaybe it’s simply “‘Cause he’s Bob Rock!” Jamie thinks this is so obvious.”He did Metallica’s Black Album.”
- Jamie Oliver
Like Metallica, the band has gone through a couple of line-up changesthroughout its existence, but they seem quite comfortable today. They’vealso got a few remarkable guests on the album. Josh Freese from A PerfectCircle, a guy close enough to Tool, the band Oliver tells me he dislikeswhile we sit discussing Maynard’s new release.
“I remember reading aninterview with Maynard saying that A Perfect Circle was totally pop – hisidea of pop. And it was. They were like really catchy songs. We love Joshand he’s allowed. He was at the door constantly begging: ‘Please!’” Jamielaughs. So who did they turn away from their studio door? “Travis from Blink182, the ghost of John Bonham, Lars, that Joey Jordison from Slipknot. No,it’s all a lie!” And to think I almost believed the bit about John Bonham’sghost.
Jamie’s food finally arrives. “Excuse me, I hope you don’t mind if I eat atthe same time.” I don’t, but am curious whether his cooking skills matchthose of The Naked Chef. “All he does is cooking. That’s all he does – hecooks.” Well, he is a cook. “When I’m married, I hope my wife likes cooking.Either that or take-outs! I like the idea of cooking, but if you see whatyou’re doing, the magic is ruined!” Hope that only goes for cooking…