Filed under: Interview
Landing a major label record deal aged 19 off the back of one remix and one track, Death In Vegas main-man Richard Fearless certainly had one of the easiest paths into making a living as a musician though 13 years on, he’s devoting increasing energy to film making while running his band independently, largely off his own funds.
Whether his luck has deserted him as yet is unclear, though speaking on the publicity bumpf for his upcoming Fabric Mix CD he jokes about being so skint ‘it’s baked beans for another year’, adding that he’s moved to New York to teach photography and study at college. It’s a far cry from his position just 18 months ago when he was being feted as the star producer of Oasis’ (then) upcoming album and was looking forward to the release of Death In Vegas’ fourth album Satan’s Circus for the same label that signed him 13 years previously BMG. However, deciding to ditch the celebrity guests who’d previously graced both Contino Rooms (Iggy Pop and Bobbie Gillespie) and Scorpio Rising (Paul Weller and Liam Gallagher) he found a less than receptive record company when he delivered the finished album.
“The record deal never really went wrong as such, from a press side we always got good acclaim, the only problem came when we handed in the new album,” Richard tells Skrufff.
“I’d said to them beforehand ‘I can’t carry on working with all these other people’, he explains. “Because after Scorpio Rising it stopped being about the music, the music started being overshadowed by the collaborations and I told them ‘I can’t fucking do this, I just want to make a record that’s about the music underneath.”
“We were really pleased with the record whereas they were like ‘it doesn’t have any singles on it'” he continues, “So they let us go, which was great, since we had the chance to set up our own label. But the downside was that that cost a lot of money, and when the album came out, we didn’t have the money to market it. So we just sold to our fanbase, basically.”
Coinciding with the move to independence was Oasis’ decision to ditch their sessions with Death In Vegas, which soon after saw Richard relocating to New York and developing his taste for baked beans.
“The formula for success isn’t that difficult and it was always there if we wanted to go down that route but certainly I chose not to take it, I didn’t want to compromise,” he says.
“After we made our first record Dirt it sold a lot of records worldwide, we could have carried on and placed ourselves at the forefront of something but it just doesn’t really appeal to me. I’d rather be more broke but be a bit more proud of what I’m doing.”
One thing he’s certainly proud of is new mix CD for Fabric, the 23rd edition of the London club’s Live series.
Interview by Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff) : What was your approach with the CD ?
Death In Vegas : Death In Vegas: “It’s just very reflective of what I’m into. At this particular moment in time electronic music has such a fast turnaround and you can stick on tracks that you were playing one or two years ago and they sound incredibly dated, it evolves so much. I’m living in New York at the moment and the electronic scene, as far as I’m concerned, is awful here, it’s pretty non-existent. You play somewhere and people are like ‘God, that was an amazing party’ and you think ‘If you walked into the Fortress in London at 5am in the morning for a night like Haywire, and saw people really going nuts, how would you react?’ They just don’t know what going nuts is about in America, or in New York at the moment anyway.
I’ve always been more in tune with the Detroit music scene, and I recently spent some time up there and even there the warehouse scene has kind of died, everything’s gone more into bars with slightly older crowds. People are still making acid but it seems more subdued and I think that reflects what’s going on in clubs here in the US. If you make a record and you’re visualising 5,000 people in an aircraft hanger or massive warehouse it might well be different than if you’re thinking of a more mellow bar environment, even though you’re working to the same principles.
Skrufff : Did you do the CD with computers and Ableton trickery ?
Death In Vegas : No, I just mixed it, just with decks.
Skrufff : Are you generally still using decks ?
Death In Vegas : What else can you use? I’ve got about ten CDs to my name but I must have about fifteen thousand records lying around. I’m not one of those people who go out with laptops, I’m a vinyl kind of person.
Skrufff : Given that New York has such a small electronic music scene, why did you choose to relocate there ?
Death In Vegas : I came to New York because my girlfriend lives here and I also wanted to be involved more in film scores. Los Angeles is really where it’s at for the film business but I couldn’t really bear the thought of living there. It’s great doing the band but it’s pretty much all I’ve done since I was 19. Death In Vegas is an ongoing project but there are more things I’d like to take on. It just felt like a good time to do something different. I’m studying photographing but I’m mainly doing film directing. I’m actually just doing some stuff for the Stones.
Skrufff : The Stones ?
Death In Vegas : The Stones, The Rolling Stones. I’m shooting a film for Sympathy for the Devil, I pitched for it a few months ago and I won. That’s my first quite exciting film project over here.
Skrufff : How often do you return to London these days ?
Death In Vegas : Not that much at the moment because I’m waiting for my visa situation to be sorted out. On a music level as a DJ I don’t get any work over here at all, all my work has always been pretty much from everywhere else apart from America. I play in Italy a lot, I had a residency at the Loft in Barcelona for three years but I still need to get my visa sorted out so I can go back and forth easier.
Skrufff : You signed a major label record deal when you were just 19, was that with literally your very first remix ?
Death In Vegas : Yeah it was, I was still at college at the time, I did a remix and off that back of that remix I did a track which got signed as Death In Vegas, the track was called Opium Shuffle. We did that single then the label went and booked a tour when we only had that single so we were like ‘shit, we’d better get some more records together’. And that was how we got the record deal. It was weird because if wasn’t really intentional, not to start a band in that way, anyway. I grew up listening to rock music, bands like the Stooges and the Velvets (Velvet Underground) and I would have probably done something different if I’d sat down and actively decided to start a band. It just morphed into that.
Skrufff : What happened with Oasis, you were going to be producing their recent album then it didn’t happen, was that a difficult process to go through ?
Death In Vegas : No, not at all, it got a bit difficult at the end but that’s it. We recorded the whole album, spent a month doing it and, without going into too many details, what was going to be happening was five of the twelve tracks were going to be ones that we’d worked on. I wanted to make something that was really out there, that would take the music to a different psychedelic level, which I thought we could bring to the table, but you forget they’re a multi-million pound industry. It’s fair enough for a band like us to change our course and direction, and while it sounded good on paper, I think the reality for them was too much. I’m not talking about taking them electronic or anything like that, we were trying to make it more of a studio album along the lines of what Geroge Martin used to do (The Beatles’ legendary producer) on Sergeant Peppers. I wanted to take it really out there. As far as the whole experience was concerned, it was great, I don’t regret doing it, though it was a little frustrating.
Skrufff : What advice would you offer a 19 year old out there who’s being offered a record deal on the strength of a remix ?
Death In Vegas : I’d advise them to keep control of the rights to their film and artwork, which is what I did. I had it written into the contract that I did all the artwork and it was a big thing, it’s quite important for records, to me, it’s another way of expressing yourself. You also need to get really strong management. Also, don’t get sucked into that singles game. Everyone thinks it’s about radio now, making records that start getting playlists, that’s bollocks. I think it’s going to get to the stage when the majors get fucked over by so many people doing things independently. It’s becoming more like punk rock where people are doing their own distribution deals and using the internet which makes everything more accessible.
Skrufff : What’s happening release wise, for Death In Vegas ?
Death In Vegas : We have a new record ready which is written and recorded, which will be album number five. We did re-scored some psychedelic surf film scores at the Barbican and that’s the roots of this new album. We’re just waiting for the fight time to start mixing it. We’re going to release it ourselves but it’s a really great record so we might well be looking to get a label to take it on to handle the press and promotion side. We have to see what happens and to be honest my head is in different places at the moment.
End of the interview
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