“And all that remained were The Fierce And The Dead…..”
(All pictures used are copyright The Chaos Engineers/Ashley Jones)
Who are The Fierce And The Dead ? Purveyors of ‘lovingly crafted noise’ and pioneers of what they call ‘Funny Music’, this cult band have just seen their latest, limited edition, E.P. ‘Magnet’ sell out before its release date on August 14th.
This instrumental quartet are as hot as it gets in the underground, small label and independent world at the moment and I wanted to find out more about them. Read on my friends to find out what makes them tick, a bit of their history and what music makes them sit up and take notice.
Let’s introduce the band first, we have (from left to right above) Steve Cleaton (guitar), Kev Feazey (bass), Stuart Marshall (drums) and Matt Stevens (guitar).
And now the fun begins………
Progradar – What was the evolution of the band, how did The Fierce And The Dead come to be?
Kev Feazey – We’ve all known each other since school days and eventually all ended up in London. Matt was recording his second album (I think) at my old studio and he had a track that we thought would sound good with bass and drums and decided to record it as a live improvised piece, however when I came to mix it I realised that the guitar had a very definite path through the piece. Editing it would have been like missing out a chapter from a book. Matt and myself decided this was too long for his album and it was an opportunity to put it out as a side project. It became ‘Part 1’, and the reception was such that we decided to try an album. We spent an afternoon putting together some rough outlines then went into the studio for two days. That became ‘If It Carries On Like This…..’. Once we determined there was enough meat on the bone to actually turn this into a band we started rehearsing to be able to play live and immediately realised that we needed a second guitarist. There was no debate that it should be Steve, so he came on board and we finally became a ‘proper’ band.
Steve Cleaton – Matt was in the midst of the beginning of his solo career, amassing a good deal of material that he felt might also sound good as part of a band set up. The first recollection I ever had of the name ‘The Fierce and the Dead’ was in a conversation with Matt in the bar side of the Oakley Arms (now a pet shop) on a Saturday night, after about 7 pints, in about 2005. Matt was demo-ing stuff with Kevin and a couple of other mates. He said that he’d heard I’d moved to London, and asked if I would be interested in possibly joining in the band at some later point. I obliged and said I would be delighted to participate. That was the last I heard of it though, until one Friday evening about 6 years later. That Friday evening I was jamming in Bethnal Green and, in the room next door, were Matt, Kev and Stuart having a run through of some material that was later to become the majority of the album ‘If It Carries On Like this……’. About a year later I got a call from one of the other three (I think it was Kev) asking if I’d like to join in a live incarnation of FATD. I was delighted to be given a chance to join in. It has been immense fun so far!!
Progradar – One thing that I have always been curious about, where did the name come from?
KF – Matt had thought it up quite a while before the band, but where it actually originated I don’t know. Matt’s fevered imagination I should guess.
Matt Stevens – I’ve had it for ages. It’s actually part of a longer phrase but I’m not going to tell you what that is. (I think you already may have Matt……)
SC – I think you’d have to ask Matt or Kev that.
Progradar – What came first, the band or the solo career?
KF – Stuart, Steve, Matt and myself had all been playing in bands with each other in different configurations over the years so I guess you could say the band evolved in a way. But Matt had been building up his solo thing for quite a few years before TFATD started.
SC – Matt’s solo career came before this band. But in fairness, the other three have played together in various guises for years before all this. I had also been watching them play together since I was old enough to get away with going to the aforementioned pub and getting served.
MS – The solo career came first out of necessity ’cause everyone else was off doing stuff, I just built things up online myself and did about a 100 gigs with just me and a guitar and a loop pedal. It became quite popular, so there was a bit of an audience for the band when we started.
Progradar – What were your main influences when you first started and who, if anyone, influences you now?
KF – As we all grew up together we share a lot of influences which is great. As kids (and now for that matter) we listened to stuff like Tortoise, Melvins, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Black Flag, DJ Shadow, Mudhoney, Warp Records and loads of old school thrash metal so that was all relevant when we started. Nothing much has changed in terms of influences. We could fill a book with bands, new(ish) acts like Thundercat and Fuzz have definitely had an impact on us.
SC – Personally, I was fortunate enough to be born into a family that are all fairly musical in their own right. My Mum is a choral singer, my Dad played in bands in the 60s and my brother could pretty much do any style of music, I can’t actually remember not being surrounded by music. I used to play all my folks records as a very young boy. They’re stuff like Chicago Transit Authority , Crosby Stills, Nash and Young and all that. By my teens I was full on Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins all the way. Then I was a delicate young twenties Radioheadist, lately the other lads in the band have introduced me to stuff like the Mahavishnu Orchestra. I’m also a big fan of the band Tool and Guapo. There’s always loads of stuff around, you just have to have the time and the inclination to go and find it!! If only I had more time! Bloody time. I blame time for most things. It probably doesn’t even exist anyway. Bloody time…
MS – Mahavishnu (Orchestra), Husker Du, Carcass, KLF, Radiohead, all sorts. At the moment I like Vessels and Annihilation Time very much.
Progradar – What are the main differences between your solo career and being in a band and, do you enjoy doing one over the other?
MS – They’re different, I guess, at the moment I prefer to collaborate. I’m taking some time off from my solo stuff ’cause I want to focus on the band for the next couple of years, I’m really enjoying it and I think we have a really good album in us.
SC – My solo career began and ended with pretending to be Han Solo in the playground at infants school. It was short-lived, I didn’t like the thought of being frozen in that carbonite stuff, or whatever it was from the film. I prefer playing in the band to being 5 and being Han Solo, though to be honest, the majority of the other aspects of being 5 are probably preferable to modern life.
Progradar – Can you give us a quick introduction to the tracks on the album, where the ideas came from and what the titles mean etc.? and, where did the album title come from?
KF – Explain the titles? It’s no fun explaining everything. I prefer leaving them for people to make up their own definitions.
Magnet In Your Face: We never intended to write a sub 2 minute track, but it just made sense. We tried adding sections or new parts but it all felt forced. The riff Matt brought in was really strong so didn’t really need much more.
Palm Trees: This took quite a while to get right and went through several versions. We can’t help having quite a pop sensibility underneath it all and I think this track in particular shows that. Matt came in with the main riff and bass line and we all worked on it together to build it up without losing that melodic throughline and beat. We want people to dance to our music at the end of the day!
Flint: This is one of the first tracks we wrote as a band and we’re still playing it live. I always felt that we didn’t start playing it in the right way until a year or so after we had recorded it for the first album. It’s been a live favourite of ours and keeps making the cut even in short sets so I felt we needed to bring it ‘up to date’ and record a better representation of how we play the track now.
Part 6: The ‘Parts’ are our chance to experiment a bit more and a challenge to keep them all relevant to each other. They do all work if you listen through 1-6. This part is a call back to the electronic section of Part 1.
Rehearsal Recordings: One of the biggest struggles when recording is to get the energy of performances across and we’ve become really proud of the organised chaos that our live shows have become. We thought it would be fun to put these live tracks on the e.p. to give a taste of that.
MS – Magnet In Your Face is about people who follow others around.
Progradar – You say that this EP is ‘more joyous and intense’, is this a natural progression of the band’s sound and will we see more on the new album?
KF – Yes definitely. One thing we’ve identified from watching our favourite bands live is when there is a sense of joy in the room. We want the music to give people a feeling of energy, but with enough substance to withstand repeated listening.
MS – It’s all about the happiness and the connection between the band and the audience.
SC – I certainly hope that we see more of ‘joyous and intense’ on the next release. Of course, we’ll have to see what happens when we work on ideas at band practice. Sometimes the mood that we are in as a collective group dictates what we sound like, I think that’s true of any band.
Progradar – The CD has sold spectacularly well, did this surprise you or is it indicative of the large fan base you have, particularly large for a cult band?
KF – We’ve been very lucky. We have some amazing fans who seem to get what we are doing and are prepared to go with us (so far). But I can honestly say that we hadn’t realised how many people had gotten into us in the gap between Spooky Action and this E.P. It really has taken us by surprise in a very good way.
SC – It surprised me, I am very pleased. We have worked pretty hard to build up a fan base though, and a lot of that is attributable to Matt working hard on the solo side of things too.
MS – In context it’s amazing, considering the sort of music we play.
Progradar – Does the relative success of a CD like this show that there is still a future for the medium in the music industry or will streaming a la Apple Music, Spotify etc. soon take over?
KF – The music industry has become a subsidiary of the tech industries. The ‘gatekeepers’ are the people creating the listening devices or programs. I’m reluctant to even guess what is going to happen, look what has changed in just the last five years! Mp3s seem to be on the way out as wi-fi becomes stronger and more prevalent. It’ll be interesting to see. I think people don’t realise that great music takes a lot of time and effort. Working two jobs and then trying to fit in one rehearsal a week does not make for a good creative mind set.
MS – It shows that the hardcore audience still like physical product but the mainstream probably ‘aint bothered.
Progradar – What is the story behind the ‘lyrics’ on ‘Palm Trees’?
KF – That would be telling….
SC – We felt the overwhelming urge to shout ‘Palm Trees!!’
MS – Don’t tell ’em Pike!!!
Progradar – (Said very ‘tongue in cheek’) Will this be the precursor to more lyrics appearing on The Fierce and the Dead releases in the future?
KF – My answer to the next question ties in with this….
SC – Our mantra is ‘anything is possible’.
MS – We’ll see….
Progradar – When you first started out did you make a definitive decision to be all instrumental?
KF – No, it was never discussed. We grew up listening to a lot of instrumental material so it’s never been a big deal whether something has a vocal or not. I genuinely never think of ourselves as an instrumental band, if it was appropriate then we’d definitely use vocals.
SC – I think that was the intention initially, but again, I wasn’t there from the very beginning, so I suppose you’d have to ask the other 3.
MS – No one calls Aphex Twin instrumental dance. Vocals are just another timbre.
Progradar – Does this make it easier or harder to write your material?
KF – I tend to write from the music up with most tracks I’ve been involved in so it’s never been a problem. Vocals are another instrument to be used or not. I understand that people sometimes need that voice to be able to anchor their selves and we try to make sure that we’re not being intentionally obtuse.
SC – I wouldn’t say it’s harder or easier. I think it’s just different. Lyrics are often the focus of pieces of music, so without lyrics we have to create another way of giving the tunes direction. In the words of the great Maynard Kennan, ‘It’s the music that drives the emotion, the words just give it direction. If that wasn’t the case, people would be selling out spoken word tour all over the world, like they do with bands’. I must add though, I do absolutely love lyrics in most other instances!
MS – I think it forces you to make the music more interesting.
Progradar – You as a band are a close knit unit, do you write as one or individually?
KF – We tend to write all together in the rehearsal room. One of us will bring in a riff, some chords or sometimes just a concept and we’ll all get stuck into it.
SC – It’s a bit of a mix, usually though, Matt will arrive at practice with an idea, Kev goes to work on arranging the idea, and then Stuart and I drop in around that raw form of an idea and we go from there. That’s not always the case, but invariably that’s the way we work.
MS – I’ll bring in a bit, by the time it’s finished it sounds completely different. I like it ’cause I never would have made these sounds on my own, it’s very collaborative.
Progradar – Your music has a very distinctive sound, do you work towards this when mixing and producing and is it a drawn out process?
KF – Luckily we’re not virtuosos so we can’t make anything sound like anything other than us. We do a lot more preproduction now than we used to, we’ve come full circle and started sounding like what we originally intended. When you get out into the world as a band you become exposed to so many new ideas and we’ve become much more comfortable with filtering those sounds into something we can all get behind.
SC – : I think that, as is the case with any band really, we all have our own playing style and technique. But Kev does all of our production and engineering, and I think he knows so much about how other people make records, that he can take and leave what he wants from other peoples styles and combine those elements with his own practices to produce the end result.
MS – Mostly I’m just trying to re-create the guitar sounds Celtic Frost and Bob Mould had without anyone noticing.
Progradar – How long was the recording process for ‘Magnet’ from start to finish?
KF – We actually had two goes at recording. The first recordings felt rushed and did not have some of the arrangements that are now in place. Even though it cost us time and money it was decided that we had to do the material justice and start again. So, almost a year if you include that, but, in reality, about six months.
SC – To be honest, I don’t know the answer to that question. We tend to practice stuff up a great deal before we get down to the actual recording. Most of if was banged out in a couple of takes, but I don’t know how long the mixing took.
MS – Kev did a great job on this EP, we spent more time on it.
Progradar – The band’s live performances are extremely high energy and explosive with a raw feel, you have been described as one of the best live bands around today, do you enjoy doing the live shows and do you prefer that to recording in the studio?
KF – We’re very proud of our live shows now, the material is of a standard that we don’t need to over play. The recording process is completely different. I always aim to get a similar energy but they are two separate entities to me. I think we all enjoy the live experience more than recording though. Recording is great fun and is where most of the material is truly born, but with live you get adrenaline and that’s always good fun.
SC – I think we all enjoy all of it! We are all deeply in love with music on every level. That may sound a bit ‘Woodstock’, peace and love man’, but it’s the truth.
MS – I love playing, that’s what it’s all about.
Progradar – What’s next on the horizon for The Fierce and the Dead, I understand that next year will see a new album, any snippets on that?
KF – We’ve started writing but we are very committed to making something we all want to listen to first and foremost. Everything in our career to date has been about moving forward and we want to keep that artistic momentum.
SC – A moon landing. An album sometime next year is also in the pipeline. Some of said album has been written already.
MS – I have the rough direction and some of the music. I know where it’s going but I don’t know where the end is.
Progradar – Name three albums everyone should have in their collection.
KF – Stevie Wonder – ‘Innervisions’, Dead Kennedys – ‘Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables’, Mahavishnu Orchestra – ‘Inner Mounting Flame’.
SC – ‘Lateralus’ by Tool, ‘In Rainbows’ by Radiohead, ‘Queens of the Stone Age’ by Queens of the Stone Age.
MS – Vessels – ‘Dilate’, Celtic Frost – ‘Into The Pandemonium’, Sugar – ‘Copper Blue’.
Progradar – Matt, will you and Kev ever persuade Stuart and Steve to grow beards as good as yours?
KF – They can’t…..
SC – I am not into beards. I can do stubble, any longer than that and I start to get irritable with my own beard. It has been tried. I am not the only person to become irritated by my face, I hasten to add.
MS – I’m shaving mine off….
Progradar – Finally, anything you wish to add?
KF – Let’s start a cult. Who’s in?
SC – Wouldn’t it be great if all of the people of the world could just get along for once, and realise that we live in a delicately balanced system where everything relies on everything else? Just a thought.
So, there you have it, a thorough and extensive verbal workout with The Fierce And The Dead I hope you enjoyed the read and it has given an insight into one of the most exciting bands around at the moment.
You can order a digital copy and the ‘White’ CD version of ‘Magnet’ here:
The Fierce And The Dead – Magnet
Checkout the band’s website here: