Bad For Lazarus is one of the more exciting bands that this country has to offer, and unfortunately one of its most underrated. We speak to former Nine Inch Nails, UNKLE and Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster bassist and BFL vocalist Rich Fownes about his new alt-rock group, its inspirations and ideas for the future.
“Until recently, I had released very little personal material that I truly believed in”
S] You’ve all had different experiences in bands with Dom for example, being in 80’s Matchbox and Rich working with the aforementioned, UNKLE, NIN and With Scissors – do these experiences ever “bleed” into BFL in any way?
R] “Absolutely, but not in obvious ways. Every band has had different ideas and you see which ones generally work and don’t for the crowds watching. It’s been 10 years of trial and error for me and I think that with the experiences between all our bands we have a good idea of what is working and when.”
S] What have you learned from being in those bands and how have you moved forward with this act?
R] “I’ve had to re-learn the value of credibility. You start with that ideal when you hear Nirvana’s ‘Teen Spirit’ for the first time as a kid, and vow to save rock ‘n’ roll all over again. After [I did] that I got offered so many great little opportunities that I would never take back, but I had accidentally veered off from the path that I had set up. I had a major gig three or four years ago and came off-stage feeling totally empty. I’m not ungrateful at all, but I knew that I wasn’t doing things I believed in, so it was time to finally make my statement. Until recently, I had released very little personal material that I truly believed in.”
S] What do you say to the obvious comparisons that people will draw to Eighties Matchbox and their chaotic mix of sounds?
R] “I think it’s great. As long as we aren’t getting compared to Razorlight we’re okay. We all embrace our heritage, and of course a band that two of us played in is going to share characteristics, but I think you’d be an idiot to say it’s a ‘rip-off’ of any kind. It’s a part of the puzzle. For example there was a blanket rule in that band: ‘big, modern beats are not allowed’ so our first single ‘Old Rats On A New Ship’ was written around the biggest hip-hop beat I could muster.”
S] Tell us about how the upcoming album will progress away from the ’25’ EP – what themes and ideas are you playing with at the moment?
R] “If you mean lyrically, then it’s generally whatever sick joke is on our mind’s at the time. Either that or just talking about some of the bizarre and unique people we encounter. Musically the album is totally different to ’25’. What you see live at the moment is what we will be committing to record.”
S] Is there a song you a working on right now that you feel best defines the state of Bad For Lazarus?
R] “We’re always working on new stuff, and there’s always one coming up that gives you the tingles. It does feel like a significant time in the writing. Since Dom and Richie have joined we’ve properly defined what the band means. They’ve started bringing in their own songs which is so exciting for me. It feels a lot fresher.”
S] You’re known for energetic live performances – how important is the visual impact of Bad For Lazarus?
R] “Obviously it’s secondary to the material itself. But it’s no after-thought. Go and watch the first band on at your local pub, and you tell me how important it is!”
S] What is the band’s remit and how has that changed since you started out?
R] Originally, the sentence I set out for myself was ‘violent Buddy Holly’. I think at first we were a little too violent, and now we’re finding the middle-ground.
S] Where do you find inspiration to write? Is there a specific location and space?
R] Most often I do the bulk alone. For some reason, I do lots of good work when I visit my mum. I think because I anticipate not having to work at all, the pressure is off and then it’s easier for an idea to smack into me.”
S] Can you talk us through the lyrical inspiration for ‘Jon vs Apocalypse’ please – what was going through your minds when it was written as it is a lot softer in places than other tracks?
R] “That was a real one-off. I was alone in an airport, and had been reading the ‘Jon Titor Conspiracies‘ online. They were so compelling so I had all of his advice for the impending apocalypse rolling around my head, and I just wrote the lyrics as a poem almost exactly as they are. I’ve never been inspired enough to do that before or since with lyrics alone, but I’d love to get into it. I hate the idea of being pretentious enough to consider myself a poet, but like I said it was a pretty overwhelming and fun experience.”
S] What are the biggest challenges for you guys at the moment?
R] “The unfortunate cliche of the internet’s influence. People are far less inclined to bother watching bands these days. I know because I’m guilty of it myself. You check someone out online and go ‘yeah, maybe…’ and forget about it. When I started out people would go to check bands out at reputable nights, and you would make time to at least see a little of every band there because you didn’t want to miss anything. Having a website with music on it was this lavish, forward-thinking idea. Being a music fan was far more romantic even ten years ago, and you’d be exposed to bands in the right way – live. But maybe I’m just an old fart.”
S] As an extension of that question; what keeps you passionate and driven to keep going despite these challenges?
R] “Like I said before, when you nail a song live that you’ve cared about and that you love, even if there are only two people in the audience, you’re glowing. It’s the opposite of what I was used to which would be playing to dependably massive crowds; but sometimes it would go so far that I resented the audience for liking stuff that I found so bland.”
S] What do you enjoy most about coming up north and away from London to perform – is there a difference in the way you are percieved by crowds for example?
R] “Maybe it’s just a case of the grass being greener but people up north seem so much more passionate in their quest for good music. If you go to Scotland or Leeds they’re busting at the seams with amazing DIY bands. A few nights ago we were soundchecking in front of a crowded bar in Glasgow; so, we started packing away after a couple of riffs to come on stage a few hours later. Some punters started hurling abuse at us and getting aggressive. It turned out they thought we were playing and finishing after a minute or two and were so outraged they were gonna fight it out! I thought that’s fucking unbelievable, they were going to beat the shit out of us because they liked it that much. That’s passion.”