Published on May 20th, 2010 | Jonny Abrams
It’s been ten years since the classic ‘Buck Rogers’ transformed Feeder from kings of the underground into stadium superstars, during which time the band have released their third, fourth, fifth and sixth studio albums and racked up a devoted fan base spanning all corners of the globe. Now singer Grant Nicholas and bassist Taka Hirose are back with Renegades, a brand new venture whose eponymous ‘debut’ album hits the stores on July 5th.
Rocksucker caught up with Taka to discuss Renegades, Feeder, serving drinks to the Yakuza Mafia and, of course, whether or not he threw an orange at Keanu Reeves…
What made you guys want to launch the Renegades side project?
It wasn’t really a side project. Obviously we lost Mark Richardson to Skunk Anansie so we started recording with a different drummer and Grant and I felt that it had some kind of three-piece vibe. Generally we are a three-piece band. On the stage, we have been a four-piece and a five-piece. The last one was a five-piece. So it was kind of refreshing for us just to go back to being a three-piece with some new songs and maybe some old Feeder songs. Grant was saying it would be nice just to play in some small pub and when our manager heard that he said, “Ok, do the tour!”
That’s why it started but [it’s also because] fans these days don’t buy albums, they just buy singles. The last tour we did, I thought, ok, everyone knows the old songs like ‘Buck Rogers’, ‘Just the Way I’m Feeling’ and ‘Just a Day’, but the reception was a bit different when we played new songs from the new album. I understand that there’s less familiarity with these new songs but I really want our fans to listen to our new music, not just the old singles. So it’s a good challenge for us to play all new songs, before any singles or albums [are released], and it’s a good education for our fans. If we play as Feeder then everyone expects to hear all the singles so that’s why we made Renegades – yes we’re Feeder, but it’s a Renegades show so don’t expect to hear Feeder singles and just enjoy! That’s the whole concept, I think.
Apparently some people bought tickets with ‘Feeder’ written on them, not realising that it was in fact going to be a Renegades gig…
Yeah. When we did the first Renegades tour, the price included a ticket, a CD and a t-shirt, which everyone got before the show so they were prepared for a Renegades gig with Renegades songs. Everyone was wearing a Renegades t-shirt. But we did bigger venues on the second tour and I think the promoter and the venue advertised us as Feeder because they didn’t expect us to sell out. Maybe they might have put ‘Feeder (Renegades)’, or ‘Renegades (Feeder)’. We were a bit shocked when we arrived at the venue to see it advertised as a Feeder tour and we thought, “Oh dear, some people will expect us to play Feeder songs.” As Grant has explained, this is about new music and new songs. We did play some old Feeder songs but it’s not a typical Feeder gig.
Is it true that you threw an orange at Keanu Reeves?
Some people have said that but I didn’t! I said in an interview that I had a chat with Keanu Reeves before or after a Dogstar show and I was watching them playing when some people threw an orange at Keanu Reeves. I saw that but it wasn’t me, honest!
I like to imagine that he ducked backwards in slow motion like in The Matrix, as the orange broke up into hundreds of little pieces in front of him.
Before he was in The Matrix he was a bit chubby! But he was quite a nice guy.
Why did you have a picture of Jack Nicholson from The Shining on your guitar?
Actually, The Shining wasn’t my favourite film but I love Jack Nicholson…and that’s the reason!
Another great story I read about you is that you used to entertain mobsters and their mistresses…
I used to be a barman in Japan and we didn’t have to entertain them but sometimes we had to chat with these Yakuza Mafia people – just conversation – and some of them would bring their girlfriends. Some of our customers were from the Yakuza Mafia but it wasn’t a Yakuza Mafia bar.
It said that you said you learned a lot from those people. What did you learn?
I was only 20 or 21 and I had to speak to all these company executives, Yakuza Mafia, actors – all different kinds of people. I was only young so I was like, wow! They didn’t mind talking to me even though I was just working behind the bar. For a young guy, it was great to talk to these people on an equal level. It was a good time.
Do you mind if I ask a question about Jon [Lee, former drummer]?
I read this moving piece by Grant talking about Jon’s death. Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news?
It was early morning. It was odd – when Grant called me and said he had bad news, I kind of thought, “Something happened to Jon.” Jon was living in Miami and we had a few weeks off for Christmas. I always called Jon before he came back to the UK, a “how’s it going?” kind of thing. Jon was very excited about spending Christmas with his kids and wife so I thought, “Maybe I should leave him alone this time.” It’s a shame I didn’t talk to him…before it happened.
What do the next few months hold for you?
We’re going to Japan to do a Renegades gig and some promo. Then we’ll come back to do some festivals and our UK tour starts in October. The Renegades album comes out on July 5th.
What’s it called?
It’s called Renegades!
Finally, what’s your favourite Feeder album?
I guess the first album [Polythene]. There’s a lot of memories there. Obviously on later albums there’s better quality and better songs but you put everything into the first album. And I don’t even have the first album!