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Funeral For A Friend - Interview

  by Mark Rowland

published: 1 / 2 / 2004

Funeral For A Friend - Interview


Welsh rockers Funeral for a Friend's rise has been meteoric. Mark Rowland talks to them about touring with Iron Maiden and the pressures of coping with sudden fame

"What a load of cock!" Funeral for a Friend bassist/vocalist Gareth Davies leans back into the sofas on their well furnished tour bus, the kind of bus that says "I contain rock stars". Drummer/screamer Ryan Richards leans into the central table and shakes his head. The two of them are mouthing off about one of their least favourite words- a term invented by a very popular music paper to describe their music that is now used by most music papers- extremo. The band are keen to get away from this label as much as they can, mainly because it just sounds stupid. Gareth is particularly vocal about the label that has s been plastered to their music. "What a pile of wank!"? he snorts. "Extremo- what the fuck is that?! As far as I'm concerned, every band is an emo band because the slaving and grafting they've done in the studio is put into something that they feel emotional about, so theoretically any kind of music is emotional"? Ryan picks this moment to chip in, seemingly so fed up with the word emo that he can't be bothered to talk about it. "It just makes no real sense to me." he says. "You can take one band and call that emo, put them next to Bon Jovi, I say Bon Jovi are emo as well, what's the difference?" "When we did the NME cover, the guy that actually invented the term Extremo did the interview" chips in Gareth with a huge grin on his face. "And me and Matt bollocked him for it! We were like˜What the fuck were you thinking man?!" and he was like ˜Er, I dunno, it's extreme Emo.We were like "That's fucking ridiculous! Wake up man!" "We had an interview with a guy from the NME earlier, and he said ˜NME are about as professional as a fanzine." I'm sure if the NME hadn't thought it up, someone else would've come up with it, some fucking bright spark sitting in front of his computer. I tell you, whatever-core is the next thing that's coming out, whatever-core, something that just sounds like absolutely everything." Ryan shakes his head. "When are people just gonna say rock? I don't know." I take this moment to point out that the word emo is one"l" off being a 'Sesame Street' character. Gareth's face lights up at this revelation: "Ha ha! I'd never thought of that! Extreme Elmo! Extrelmo!!" The band- Gareth and Ryan, vocalist Matt Davies, and guitarists Darren Smith and Kris Roberts- are due on stage for the first show of the 2004 NME awards tour in a couple of hours. They are headlining a bill that includes diverse high profile acts such as the Rapture, the Von Bondies and Franz Ferdinand. A bit of a contrast then, to the underground hardcore band doing the rounds a little over a year ago.  The speed at which Funeral for a Friend has become successful is quite surprising. Signed to a record label before they had played their first gig, it took the South Wales quintet little under two years to go from an underground band to one Britain's most popular rock bands. It has to be said, even if you can't stand them, you have to admit that the kids love 'em. The band formed in 2002, and recorded just one demo before being signed to Welsh label Mighty Atom and releasing their debut EP, 'Between Order and Models',which defined the band's sound: jagged, noisy hardcore punk injected with sweet melody and love as its prime lyrical theme. The band were quickly signed to a bigger label, and released a second EP 'Four Ways to Scream Your Name'. Their full-length debut, 'Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation' followed soon after, and has two charting singles, 'Bullet Theory' and 'Juneauâ'. For members of the band, it seemed like their success had come to them over-night, Gareth puts it down to the intense touring the band have done over the past year. "It did seem like that because we were so fucking busy. We were always on the fucking road but I look at us and think ˜Man, that was quick" and then I look at the Darkness and think "Fuck me! THAT was quick!" Waiting in the queue outside Northumbria University's student union in Newcastle, it's obvious to see who most people are here to see. Funeral for a Friend t-shirts are spread liberally throughout the crowd, and can be seen on wee skater kids and older hardcore kids alike. One punter at the front shouts down the line˜Who's here to see Funeral for a Friend!!?" The reply is deafening. Those in the crowd who aren't big fans of the band (which includes me) look slightly bewildered and very out of place; especially as most of themare at least a foot taller than the average FFAF fan. The band seem genuinely shocked to hear that their fans take up a large part of tonight's crowd. GD : Really? It's points like that and at certain songs like 'Juneau' when the crowd sing back, you realise the effect that Funeral for a Friend has had on people, and that is a head fuck, that is one of those whoa moments, it's completely humbling, and we love everyone for doing everything they've done for us, it's amazing. PB :No offence to you lot, but I would've liked to have seen a few more people here for the Rapture. GD :I second that. I'm sure Matt (Davies) would as well. RR :Yeah it's a really good bill for these shows. GD : That's part of the reason why agreed to this tour. Its so eclectic. It's a nice change to watching bands that we've chosen to come out on tour. It was nice for NME to ask us and three bands that are diverse. RR :It's cool that it's not an emo tour. It's not a punk tour,it's not a metal tour, it's a rock tour, you know. GD :It's always been like that, the Lostprophets, the Coral and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. I think that's a pretty fucking varied bill. I think the NME tours always are. So it's always good fun The high point of the band's career so far was a support slot for Iron Maiden on a stadium tour across Europe in December. Iron Maiden's singer Bruce Dickinson has been very vocal in his liking for the band, and plays their music regularly on his radio show on BBC 6 Music.  PB : Was it cool touring with Iron Maiden? RR : Very cool I think. GD : Yes, very, very cool. It was a very good learning curve for us, playing with a band that was playing shows before I was even fucking born. It doesn'thappen too often. The crowd were very hostile. RR :You got to step up your game, you know, every single night. You've got to be playing on all cylinders. Otherwise you'll get so much shit it's untrue. But obviously they're there to see Maiden: they're legends. We're not. It toughened us up, didn't it? It kind of made us a better band and taught us a lot about performing and whatnot, but for me personally it was just a boyhood dream come true you know, the great Iron Maiden: it's something I'll always remember fondly. PB : I can't really see you lot going down well with die hard Maiden fans. GD : Nobody goes down well with Maiden fans! If Maiden supported Maiden they wouldn't fucking go down well. It's insane. We've heard like horror stories about when the Murderdolls supported them in Sweden and people were throwing hockey pucks at the stage. It's like "Fuck me!™ do you know what I mean? In 28 shows we had a pint and a half of lager, 2 coins and a fucking McDonald's toy thrown at us, I think that's pretty good considering. RR : It's not bad that. Yeah, we got Ronald Mcdonald on a surfboard! And a couple of Chupa-chups! GD : I think that's quite a fucking achievement really. It's like the Murderdolls went on stage somewhere else and saw 20,000 people turn their backs on them, because they refused to watch anyone else except Maiden. That's such a head fuck to think about before you go onstage! RR : It was brilliant though, you know. It was like when you get your first shitty job, you're on it and you're thinking, ˜Oh fucking hell, this is really hard!" but it makes a man out of you. (Laughs) Makes you a man! That's what it's all about, so we enjoyed it, I loved it. PB : Become a man: play with Maiden. I'll bear that in mind. RR : Yeah, you're not a man until you've played with Maiden. And had shit thrown at you. (Laughs) PB : When you were growing up were you more of a Metal person than a Punk one? RR : Yeah I was. GD : I was a fucking Indie kid! RR : Yeah, old G's loving his Indie, so he'll be loving this NME tour won't he? GD : Too right man, I can't fucking wait. RR- : Anyway, definitely it was a progression, because my dad was really into the classic rock you know, like Led Zeppelin, Cream, Clapton, the Yardbirds, things like that, and that's what I grew up listening to until I started making my own mind up and shopping for my own CDs I suppose, and I was getting into the harder stuff at the time which was like Bon Jovi, then gradually getting into bands like Metalica, Megadeth, Suicidal Tendencies, Testament, Exodus, bands like that.I've just really always been into that kind of music but you kind of broaden your horizons with the people you meet in life, and places you go. It's always been the Metal thing for me though. I've always been a big fan of melody as well. A good song is important as is a good band that can play good riffs. PB : On your site on the news pages there's always a bit at the end that says "By the way check out this band". Are you passionate about plugging bands that you like? GD : Yeah of course, we've been fortunate enough to be out into a position with help from bands in the past, and we're returning the favour to bands that we like as well, bands like Beyond All Reason, Days of December, Hondo Maclean as well. RR : We've been given a voice really, and we might as well use it. If it's just to tell people what we think is cool, what we like, we're not telling people what they should like, just give it a try, see what you think, give these bands a chance, maybe if they're not getting any exposure, if they're not fortunate enough to get snapped up by any record label yet, then it's cool for us to be able to point people in their direction. And take those bands on tour as well, which is something we love doing-taking bands we like on tour, which we always have. We always make sure we have control over that. It's important. PB : Are any of the bands mentioned on the site friends of yours that say that you owe them? RR : It's never been a case of owing anyone. It's just been more of us saying˜this band are not getting the recognition they deserve. They're not getting the opportunities they deserve. We've got a chance to give them that,so let's go for it. GD :It's like when you see a really good unsigned band and you tell everyone about them. RR : It's that kind of thing but we get to do it on a bigger scale, and instead of telling our mates ˜You have to listen to this band!" We just take them on tour with us, so you have to listen to them. If you want to come to see us, well, you don't have to listen to them, but it would be cool if youwould. GD : It's the same with the press as well, if you tell 5 or 6 of your friends, or you could put it in a magazine and get to 40,000 people like that. It's spreading the word. PB : Also you get less people going ˜I'll listen to them later, just shut up!" RR : Or you could get more people who are like ˜What do those knobheadsknow, they're crap! Seriously, it is nice for us to be able to just recommend. To point in the general direction. PB : Do you think British music as a whole is good right now? GD :Yeah it's pretty good. We've got Hundred Reasons, Lostprophets, Hell is for Heroes, the Darkness. RR : Yeah the Darkness, they're taking over the world now, they're going everywhere, and just taking over, and if it was just a sort of luck, fad sort of novelty thing. I thought it would have only been confined to the UK. GD : The fact that they were number 39 in the Billboard charts in the States in the first week of their album's release it shows that British bands can actually fucking do something in America as well> It's fucking awesome. RR : They're doing something that's appealing to people. I think it's easy to say "Oh, it's just comedy value, it's just a joke.It's not, it's good songs, you know, and they're well played, well written, good songs. There's nothing wrong with that. PB : How is your band doing in America? Are you doing well over there? GD : We released the two EPs on a combined disc out there, and it's selling well. It's shifted about 8,000 in about three months? Three or four months. RR :Yeah, I think it's been about that long. GD : It's been doing quite well, so we've got to go back out there now in April, and get some serious, serious touring done. RR : The album's coming out in April in the states, and we're going to cast our attention there and see what we can do, see what they think. PB : You've been winning quite a lot of awards, like best newcomer at the Kerrang awards and stuff like that. Do you find that a confidence boost, or were you confident enough already? GD : It's really just a message to show that people appreciate what we do. That's the only thing about it. We don't dwell on it much. It's just cool that people have actually put our names on a piece of paper and sent it in. It's cool as fuck. PB : Do you think you've got any chance of winning anything at the NME awards? RR : It's just nice to be nominated I think. I think, not to play down what kind of honour an award would be. I think that the biggest honour is to be asked to headline the NME tour. That's an amazing thing. If you look at the calibre of bands on like The Rapture, Franz Ferdinand and Von Bondies, it's quite an exciting thing to be asked to headline. I mean they could have chosen any band in the UK really. And out of the UK, for that matter. GD : I am going to be away for the awards ceremony anyway. It is at this point that the fifteen-year-olds that have been talking to the band's guitarists upstairs go to leave. They say goodbye to us and run out screaming. Ryan and Gareth's faces screw up in disbelief. "Did they just run out screaming?" asks Gareth. I point out that they are only fifteen. "They're fifteen, and shameless! Bit like you with Steve Harris!"Gareth nods at Ryan. "That was the highlight of the Iron Maiden tour. I was sat in the dressing room, and he came in and said "Steve Harris just passed me in the corridor and called me by my first name!" The conversation goes on from Iron Maiden guitarists to meeting famous people in general. Ryan's face suddenly lights up: RR : We saw Tony Hadley last night from Spandau Ballet! GD : Yeah! We saw Tony Hadley standing by the coffee machine and Darren got his autograph. Fuck yeah! RR : Yeah ! Tony Hadley. PB : I met Timmy Mallet once when I was about 7. GD : h man! Seriously I envy you! Although, we met Rolf Harris at the Iron Maiden show! Rolf Harris! In Earls Court. Matt, the photographer for the night, chooses this moment to join the conversation: "I've seen him live" GD :You've seen him live! You fucking beat me hands down! RR : I think the best one was meeting Finchy from 'The Office' GD :Yeah, meeting Finchy from 'The Office' at the Kerrang awards. RR : Chris Finch, running around, drunk as fuck, doing all his lines. Fantastic ! PB : Thank you

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