Welsh nu-metal influenced rockers Lostprophets recently released their first album in nearly four years. The Betrayed has been an arduous process, with an early recording scrapped at a cost of more than half a million dollars after the Prophets dismissed it as -too slick’. When they started again, the Kerrang Award winners took a new direction. The band self-produced to maintain their own character, and despite losing their drummer to Nine Inch Nails along the way, State learned that The Betrayed is a record close to Ian Watkins’ heart. It’s a topic the lead vocalist is happy to wax lyrical about whilst shivering in the Cardiff snow, waiting for the bus to arrive and whisk the lads on a whistle-stop promotional tour across the UK. The Lostprophets might not be the chart force they once were – many still consider the melodramatic opening to debut single -Shinobi vs. Dragon Ninja’ to be their finest moment – but they’re a satisfied bunch, riding at the crest of a creative wave.
The Betrayed has taken a really dark direction compared to some of your older material. Is that a reflection of how you feel about the world right now?
Yeah. I mean obviously it’s all subjective, but there’s definitely a certain sense of’¦ trepidation I guess. In a way, we can’t help feeling that there’s something coming, you know? But at the same time, there’s a sense of -enjoy it while you can’. You don’t want to be spending every day worrying about going to hell or whatever. It’s kind of an acceptance. Not a lay down and die acceptance, though, more just a take it on the chin kind of thing.
Part of the reason the last record took so long to make was problems with the labels. What happened?
Well with the US label, our label merged with Sony and basically fired everybody who promoted the record. The success of the record on the radio was exactly correlated with those people being fired. On the American side, there’s no real vibe, nothing’s really anything to do with music. It’s all so disposable. I can’t speak for the rest of the guys, but for me, I was relieved that we didn’t have to go through it again. It was just so soulless and sterile.
But you also started again entirely at one point’¦
Yes. The reason we make music from scratch is that we want to make music where we’re not told what it is (State – a jab at their earlier producer). Another thing was, we always said that the album wouldn’t come out until it’s ready to come out, however long it takes. We scrapped that entire album, because once you release it, that’s it. An album is a marker in your career, so you can’t push releasing it, especially as we have to keep playing it, and talking about it for so long. There’s no way you could have the enthusiasm if you weren’t 100% about it.
Particularly with a rock album, if it’s a bit too polished, you’re liable to lose a lot of fans…
I think we did that on the last one. The last time we thought we went really polished, really pop rock, and it was wicked. But we’ve done that, so this one was more just’¦ what it naturally was, you know? In a way, it’s a return to our early days. I mean there’s no way you can completely go back, as that first album always has a certain naivety to it. We recorded it in a week, and we were just having a laugh, but all the albums are great snapshots of what we were doing in our lives at that time. This had the same kind of vibe as the first, though, as we did it ourselves. We just had complete freedom to do what we wanted to do.
You used to be known for -the wall’ and some pretty manic live shows. Has your show had to change much with the change in style?
It’s funny, we were talking about this the other day. We still see ourselves as the punk/ metal kids we were when we grew up, and sometimes we’re up on stage thinking, fuck, this isn’t going off. But then you realize that the crowd is such a cross section of mainstream society. When you’re around for a while and you get played on radio and TV, you end up reaching a broader audience. We have to kind of take the vibe of the show. If it’s lively, we automatically revert to what we were like as kids. When we do an arena show, though, were conscious that people have paid a lot of money to come and see us, and that if they’re sat at the back of the arena, they’re not really going to appreciate bumbling in-jokes.
Back in the Fake Sounds Of Progress days in particular, you were very critical of other bands coming through, all hyped up, and not really being anything special. Do you still feel the same way?
Haha. I think it’s often misconstrued. It’s just what I think, you know? It’s that kind of frustration with not hearing what you wanted to hear. Everything’s cyclical with music, and everything has its flourishes, and then it dies for a bit. At the moment, in the rock world, nothing is really special, you know. There are some good bands around, I mean The Young Guns are great, but right now I’m listening to a lot of electro stuff. There’s nothing that really springs to mind. There are far too many bands out there that think they’re changing the world.
Do you think using synths in rock music has become more acceptable since you started out? I mean, you were doing it before this current craze came along, has the attitude changed?
Everyone’s doing it now! We used to get like (sarcastic voice) ‘keyboards?’ But people take it for granted now that every style is mashed into every other style. Ten years ago there weren’t many other people doing it. We used to turn up with decks and people were like, what the fuck? You can’t do that!
What are you guys like on tour?
We’re pretty chilled. As clichÃ©d and trite as it sounds, it’s all about the music. When we were teenagers we didn’t really want to get day jobs, we just wanted to hang out with each other forever. Now we have that, and no one wants to destroy it. We don’t go on tour and get fucked up, because we all did that when we were kids anyway. We were little bastards when we were kids, but now we just don’t want to fuck it up. I think that probably one of the main reasons we’re still around is that we’ve never had any delusions of grandeur. This is all that we have, and it’s always been the same.
When it’s all done, what would you like to be remembered for?
Persistence. I look at bands like U2 and The Chili Peppers, and they’re all bands that didn’t really come into their own until their fourth of fifth album. Not many bands get that chance to develop over time any more. We’re hoping that’s what will happen for us.
As published on State.ie, March 2010.