(Grant Nicholas - Vocals/Guitar, Jon Lee - Drums, Taka Hirose - Bass)
The pictures/posters/CD covers clutched by eager fans have all been signed, and I'm backstage with Feeder at Newcastle Riverside among a variety of empty bottles and the remains of the food provided by the venue, including some mangled-looking oranges and half-eaten sandwiches which Jon strongly advises anyone against eating. These guys are easily the friendliest and most obliging band I've ever had the good fortune to meet - in Leeds last week they did a mammoth 3-hour signing at Virgin Megastore - and it isn't surprising that their fan base is increasing so rapidly.
Tonight, at their first ever gig in Newcastle, Feeder won over the crowd in convincing fashion with a blistering 12-song set including their five singles, tracks from their album and mini-album, and a couple of B-sides thrown in for good measure. The band seemed pleasantly surprised at the reaction they received, while security were kept busy trying to intercept potential crowd surfers, with limited success - at one point there were more members of the crowd on stage than members of the band!
After the initial introductions (I met the band last week after their excellent and enthusiastically-received gig at the Duchess in Leeds but there are a couple of unfamiliar faces), I'm ready to begin my first ever band interview. Here goes...
Starting with a really obvious question, I ask about the origin of the name 'Feeder'. Grant informs me that they originally wanted to use the name Feed, but settled on Feeder after discovering that a band in New York had already beaten them to it.
"Funny enough, it was actually named after a goldfish." reveals Grant. "Feeder the fish." This explains a reoccurring fish theme with Feeder, which has included the appearance of fish on various band flyers, the release of mini-album `Swim' last year (the cover artwork also featured a goldfish), and the surreal image of an expanding/contracting goldfish which was the opening stage projection for Feeder's set tonight.
Both originally hailing from Wales (although only Jon has retained the accent), Grant and Jon met around ten years ago when they played together in a band in Cardiff. Grant then went on to work in a record studio, gaining experience in sound production which was to prove useful later when he was rejoined by Jon and Feeder were formed.
"It's helped me a lot in the studio to know what I want - how to get sounds and that sort of stuff." explains Grant. "And how to beat up the engineer." He also expresses an interest in returning to producing some time in the future - "I mean, I can't be playing live when I'm eighty!"
Taka was the last member to join the band, having come to London from Tokyo where his previous jobs included bar managing and making guitars (he still designs his own basses). The band had a different bassist before him, with whom things didn't work out.
"'Cos he was Welsh!" remarks Jon. " Three Welsh people is just too much!"
Grant describes how he spotted an advert that Taka placed in Loot magazine, a free ads paper featuring "Second-hand cars and second-hand bassists." After meeting for 'tea' ("Very rock 'n' roll!" laughs Taka), they held an initial audition in a rehearsal room at the top of a carpenters.
"It was in King's Cross," Grant recalls, "and there were loads of prostitutes walking up and down."
"So we didn't get much rehearsing done, we were just looking out of the window all the time!" quips Jon.
The band describe the rehearsal room as an upstairs version of the cellar in the film Silence of the Lambs. "I remember all the sawdust everywhere, and sort of singing and choking," Grant reminisces wryly. Nevertheless, something clicked at that audition, and Taka was soon a fully-fledged member of the band.
Moving on to the subject of song-writing, I ask Grant what second single 'Tangerine' was all about (Chorus lyric : 'I know, it's sad, life's just a piece of fruit.'). It turns out that I've picked a good song to enquire about.
"It was kind of half tongue in cheek, and half....not really bitterness, but I was pretty angry at the time. We used to play in a place called the Splash club at King's Cross, and there was a really good scene, with bands like Skunk Anansie and Rub Ultra. There were a few other bands who'd been signed and had gone on to do better things, and it felt as though we were left behind in some way 'cos we never fitted into the trendy indie scene - although we had pop melodies our stuff was always quite full on. And in my bizarre, warped way of thinking it was like we were the last ones to be picked..."
"...the last tangerine in the box." finishes Jon
"It was my way of having a dig at all those sad A&R people that followed the whole trendy Camden scene," Grant continues. "It was just done tongue in cheek, but it actually means something to me - it was what I wanted to say at the time."
Feeder went on to sign with Echo in 1995, and released their debut album, Polythene, in May this year. Their fifth and current single, 'High', is their best yet - a spine-tinglingly gorgeous song about friendship. The band recently performed the song on Channel 5's Jack Docherty show, which Grant claims was "the only TV programme they'd let us on!" The single has been vigorously promoted by appearances in record stores as well as a hot-air balloon ride arranged by the record company after the band saw it advertised in Time Out.
"I'm not really the biggest fan of balloons and planes and heights," admits Grant, at which point Jon does a comical impression of Grant grasping onto the side of the balloon basket for dear life while looking absolutely petrified. "But it was just a bit of a laugh really. And you get a great view of London."
On a more serious note, the band were clearly unimpressed by the non-attendance of certain journalists at the event - "Not mentioning any names - NME, Melody Maker." remarks Grant pointedly.
I inquire as to whether we'll be seeing the band sky-diving or bungie jumping for their next publicity stunt, to which Jon replies with a grin - "No, we tell our crew to do that!"
Almost constant touring of the UK since the release of Polythene this year has done wonders for the band's popularity - their tour manager, Andy (who has also toured with bands such as Dub War), tells me that the gigs have just been getting better and better. Among their favourite live shows of the past year, the band include their tours with Reef and Terrorvision, and their appearances at the Reading and V97 festivals. I ask which bands they would like to tour with in the future, and there is a general agreement on Radiohead, The Eels and The Foo Fighters. Naturally there has been the odd live hiccup, including a technical problem at one of their gigs at the Splash club.
"His amp blew up, it was a cracker!" exclaims Jon.
"Afterwards, people were going - 'I loved the bit where the smoke flew out of your amp!'" laughs Grant, "And it wasn't meant to do it!" Exploding amps aside, Feeder certainly have a very visual live show which is greatly enhanced by the eye-catching projections screened onto the stage backdrop during the performance - these are the work of Jess, the sole female member of the Feeder tour crew.
Feeder clinched their American deal with Electra (who also have artists such as Metallica, Tracey Chapman and The Doors on their books) after playing in New York at CMJ, an annual showcase of bands looking to sign American deals.
"We just went out there completely unknown," explains Grant, "did some gigs in front of 40 or 50 people, and it went down really well. And we got a deal out of it - a very good deal."
"Took us a year to sign it though!" adds Jon.
"Yeah, we spent about ten grand on legal fees, but at least we signed it."
With an American tour planned for February/March of next year, 1998 is sure to be an important year for Feeder. Apart from two gigs in Belgium the band have not yet performed abroad, but Jon informs me that there is a possibility of visiting Europe before Christmas if the right tour comes up. They are also hoping to get started on the next album before the year is out. With 'High' currently living up to its name at number 24 in the charts following considerable airplay on Radio 1, it looks as if the only way is up for Feeder. And after riding 480 feet above the ground in a hot-air balloon, the band should now be ready for the dizzy heights of success.
Before I conclude the interview, Jon insists on having a "comfortable silence", carefully captured on dictaphone.
"That was a beautiful moment." he says afterwards.
Beautiful moment over, it's time to hit the bar!
Feeder were interviewed by Nicky Bray.