Mike Lewis has just had a sandwich and – bear in mind that a man’s happiness is through his stomach – he sits beside me and starts chatting away. lostprophets band mate Jamie Oliver is nowhere to be found. The band’s press officer thinks he may have gone off to grab a bite to eat. Apparently The Naked Chef’s namesake is suffering from severe hunger pangs.
So am I, but I’ll have to do without food and just chew off Mike’s words, explaining Liberation Transmission, the Welsh rock band’s third release, on which they have chosen to work with Bob Rock, the man behind the production of such monsters of rock as Metallica, Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe.
But no, lostprophets don’t sound like another wannabe metal band (also known as nu metal). They embrace their ’80s pop influences more than ever, while simultaneously creating a heavier sound and piling on the melody. That’s a word that often comes up in interviews nowadays: everyone claiming their sound is so melodic in this world of unmelodious rock.
“There hasn’t been any inspiration, really, for the last 10-15 years in the UK of any British bands doing that. The only people still doing that are the American bands. So people will probably look at our music and think it sounds more American because of that,” explains the guitarist, whose English I have attempted to correct in the above quote.
Seriously, he’s a nice bloke and proceeds to explain why lostprophets are one of the few Brit bands that have relative success Stateside. It’s actually got more to do with population density. “If you mean success by record sales, we’ve done well on record sales. And it’s also relative. We had sold quite a few records over there. It’s a big place and there’s a lot for people there. We have a platinum record in the UK. We’re short of a platinum record in the US.”
Mike is on a roll – my attempts at asking another question are in vain and I’m too polite to interrupt his diatribe – and takes a go at us rock journos. “Everybody points fingers at us saying that we sound like an American band. But I don’t think they actually mean the accents or the way that we look. I think maybe the difference between us and UK bands is that since Iron Maiden in the rock genre, bands have not really tended to be ambitious with their choruses and with the anthemic size of the songs they were doing,” he offers as an insight.
“British music tends to be a little bit more jingly-jangly, a little bit more indie, and music people are more concerned about being cool and be(ing) in fashion than tend to have a vision of grandeur, you know? We’ve never shied away from wanting to do that.” They certainly set their visions way up high here by recruiting Bob Rock to produce pop songs. No, sorry, rock. Um, no…
“British music tends to be a little bit more jingly-jangly… and music people are more concerned about being cool and be(ing) in fashion.” – Mike Lewis
“We’ve always challenged ourselves to write really hooky, poppy. When I say pop, I mean its traditional sense, when it was not derogatory – The Clash, for instance, was one of the biggest pop bands of my youth. Rock The Casbah has probably the best chorus ever written, but they still had attitude – pop like Duran Duran and The Police. We’ve always tried to make our songs pretty much catchy and write songs as well as we possibly can. And as a result, we try to make big choruses that people can sing along to.”
Keyboardist Jamie Oliver arrives at last and orders “clear water please”; he apologises for his tardiness. His press officer has taken over the hunt for edibles and has gone out to get him a sandwich while he munches on a packet of crisps. Looking clueless, he just listens to Mike’s lecture, occasionally nodding his head.
“And that’s probably why we sell over there and other UK bands don’t. We also work from the ground level. We’ve never been the hype machine, the fashion band,” Mike continues. Oh, that must be the understatement of the year, for the two ‘Prophets look quite the ’80s rage indeed. “We’ve always prided ourselves with doing the groundwork and playing showing after show after show and actually doing it has gotten has the support that we’ve got rather than the magazines. So we’ve got a really good ethic. Sorry, that was a long-winded answer!”
While Mike takes a breather, Jamie offers me a crisp and says, “I think people need more sing-along anthems, or stadium music.” Which explains why they chose Bob Rock to produce the album. Or maybe it’s simply “‘Cause he’s Bob Rock!” Jamie thinks this is so obvious.”He did Metallica’s Black Album.”
“I think people need more sing-along anthems, or stadium music.” – Jamie Oliver
Like Metallica, the band has gone through a couple of line-up changes throughout its existence, but they seem quite comfortable today. They’ve also got a few remarkable guests on the album, such as Josh Freese from A Perfect Circle, a guy close enough to Tool, a band Oliver tells me he dislikes while we sit discussing Maynard’s new release.
“I remember reading an interview with Maynard saying that A Perfect Circle was totally pop – his idea of pop. And it was. They were like really catchy songs. We love Josh and he’s allowed. He was at the door constantly begging: ‘Please!'” Jamie laughs. So who did they turn away from their studio door? “Travis from Blink 182, 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’s ghost.
Jamie’s food finally arrives. “Excuse me, I hope you don’t mind if I eat at the same time.” I don’t, but am curious whether his cooking skills match those of The Naked Chef. “All he does is cooking. That’s all he does – he cooks.” 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 what you’re doing, the magic is ruined!” Hope that only goes for cooking…