It has been a while since anybody heard from Richard Fearless. It’s been even longer – seven whole years, to be precise – since his prime moniker Death In Vegas put out a record. Yet this year represents something of a second dawn for the name with the release of Trans-Love Energies, the record with which he is effectively being reintroduced to the world. Talking to him, it becomes evident that this is not a comeback in the Blur or Pulp sense, but more the resurrection of a name that had become dormant. As Fearless – real surname Maguire – explains, it’s almost inevitable that this has come about.
“It’s not really a surprise to me. When I stopped it I put it on hold. I really needed a break from Death In Vegas and doing pretty much everything – the artwork, the music and the production. That’s why I went to the States. When I was at college I started writing again, but I was finding that it fell into two camps – Black Acid and Death In Vegas.”
Fearless lived in New York for seven years, a period of his life that appears to have been equal parts energising and draining. “In different ways I found it revitalising,” he says, going for the positive first but still speaking in a relatively hushed voice. “It wasn’t so much New York though, it was the whole process of moving, and everything I went through while I was over there. I started another band – that being Black Acid – and it was a lot more garage, more rock and roll. We did one tour with The Raveonettes, and a show with Perry Farrell. I found it was great to go back to loading gear in the van and driving from New York to Austin. I never really had that with Death In Vegas, we got catapulted to a big level quite quickly. It was also great to work with musicians from a different background, though I wouldn’t say New York was a great period in terms of musical inspiration. It was more of an inspiration when I would come back here and discover how good things were sounding over here.”
“In an ideal world I wouldn’t do touring either! I’ve got a backlog of two more albums that are ready to go”– Richard Fearless
His subject of study at college was large scope photography, a subject close to his heart. “I think it stems from my upbringing in South Africa. I have found that I definitely feel a longing towards open space, and I found it again in the States. It comes across in my photography, and that became a huge inspiration for me. My music has always had a lot of space in it, it’s come through in the great film scores that I love, and that’s become part of the Death In Vegas sound.”
Yet now, as Fearless begins to rehearse for heading out on tour, he finds himself on Trans-Love Energies in the position of lead vocalist for the first time. That doesn’t mean he is too keen to revisit the old stuff, mind. “There’s a few old songs rehearsed, but not vocally. Ideally I wouldn’t do any old stuff – it’s purely for sanity reasons,” he explains. “In an ideal world I wouldn’t do touring either! I’ve got a backlog of two more albums that are ready to go, and I would rather be straight back to the creative process. It’s quite nice to be away but it’s great to be doing a record, that’s the position I like to be in.”
So prolific has he been lately that Fearless is offering a second CD with Trans-Love Energies, of B-sides and remixes. “The second CD I’m really pleased with,” he declares. “I’m really into it, it’s got some original tracks and some great mixes, as far as I tried to do some mixes that I wanted to play out.”
Does that mean he has continued to DJ? “You know what, I’m not, lately – I think because people thought I’d died! But now I’m getting calls from DJs, calling me about the new stuff they’ve been sent. It’s really weird because Enforced Peace has been out, and now Ewan Pearson and Optimo have been going for it. When I went to America I wasn’t able to DJ much, but I did do a bit in Chicago and Detroit. I didn’t really fit in soundwise to the New York electronica. The stuff Francois Kevorkian was doing at Shadow, that wasn’t quite my scene, but I’ve come more from Detroit techno. So that’s the long winded answer!”
“If you walk away from something and shut your doors, you go through a time when you lose a certain confidence in yourself”– Richard Fearless
And what were the down sides of living in New York? He pauses, and the speaking tones become more measured. “It was just the circumstances I was in. It was a tough time, but I can’t go in to it without hurting people’s feelings. Black Acid did the job dealing with that, but Death In Vegas was more about coming back to England, coming back to share a studio with Andrew Weatherall. Now I have the knowledge of more technical stuff and not having to work through an engineer/partner, so with this record it’s the full depth of my twisted head. So it’s raw.”
The cloud passes – and he talks of the reception he has received on his return. “It’s a warmth really – if you walk away from something and shut your doors, you go through a time when you lose a certain confidence in yourself. It’s been a process and now people have been like ‘yeah, it’s great to have you back’. I can’t lie, it’s extremely flattering.”
He’s still getting used to it though. “It’s weird, because on a work level I don’t know if people know how to get hold of me. I don’t do Facebook or anything like that. Stuff that came through was word of mouth, and I started doing some production work with Yoko Ono, some stuff with the Rolling Stones. As far as Death In Vegas was concerned, putting something to bed for a bit was the best thing I could have done for it.”
The new Death In Vegas album Trans-Love Energies will be released through Portobello on 26 September 2011, including the single Your Loft My Acid. The Death In Vegas UK tour begins in King Tut’s, Glasgow on 3 December and runs until 15 December at Camden’s Electric Ballroom. More at deathinvegasmusic.com.