"For various reasons, it didn't feel right to be doing Death In Vegas in New York and it was only when I returned two years ago it felt right to start doing it again."
Following a seven-year sabbatical and a sojourn in the Big Apple, Richard Fearless has reactivated Death In Vegas. With new album ‘Trans-Love Energies’ released last September, slightly too late for most of last year’s festival action, it’s this year that’ll see them reclaim fields, tents and dancefloors the world over, starting when they headline the Camden Crawl’s Opening Night Party on 4 May.
Many have pin-pointed ‘Trans-Love Energies’ as a return to their roots, and while Richard doesn’t entirely disagree with this, he insists it’s unintentional, a result of coming “home” in a more literal sense: “When I moved back, I moved into a studio with Andrew Weatherall – he was my landlord for two years when I was doing this record – and I’d got hold of my old drum machines and synths from my old studio. 808s, 909s, 303s – they were the tools I had at hand really, so I started making a record.”
The sense of starting over is undeniable though, as the vintage gear led to some vintage influences, as Richard recounts: “It was a really natural and fun record to make. I drew on the electronic music that inspired me in the first place: old Chicago stuff, Detroit techno, the acid scene, and on the more ‘psych’ tracks, Lightning Bolt and PiL. ‘Silver Time Machine’ could almost be a lost Syd Barrett track or something.”
The desire to keep things “fun” was paramount as well and Fearless admits he’d already set out one ground rule for himself: “I knew I didn’t want to work with loads of vocalists after [third album] ‘Scorpio Rising’, there’s a few I shouldn’t have done. With [album four] ‘Satan’s Circus’, I went the other way and worked with none. With this new one, I wasn’t going to make one with loads of guests, because I didn’t want to overshadow the music, and it’s difficult to do live without disappointing fans.”
A desire for a sound that could be created more faithfully live meant only one option: to sing himself. While he had taken singing duties in his New York band Black Acid, Richard found the idea of going it alone somewhat daunting. “I wanted to sing on this record but I hadn’t had much encouragement from anyone,” he gasps. “To be honest I was thinking if it got panned, there’d be no-one to blame but myself, and by stepping into the vocal suite I was setting myself up.”
In the end, wedding bells gave him the step up he needed: “The first track I did was ‘Black Hole’, and I was originally going to have Jamie from The Kills singing on it, but he wasn’t ready as he had his little wedding [to Kate Moss] to plan, and I started coming up with lyrics, so I just decided: “I’m going to have a stab at this.” It seems that Jamie is not the only ones whose plans went well: “I went in and got it in one take. I got a really strong reaction, like: “Wow, where did that come from?” It gave me the confidence to carry on doing it.”
So is there added pressure now, as a newly-fledged singing frontman? “Yeah, but I think I subconsciously thrive on putting myself in positions like that. Before there was so much coming off tape, but now it’s so much more of a live experience and it’s so much more exciting, and doing the vocals, I have to be on top of my game, and I enjoy that.”
A delay in finishing the record was actually a silver lining for that live experience, as Richard explains: “The record was meant to come out at the start of the summer, so we missed out on the festivals, which is kind of a good thing. We went and toured France, and worked out a few problems. Now it’s as strong as it’s been as a live band, and what’s good is that it feels relevant.”
That they’ve been asked to open the Camden Crawl has reinforced that feeling in the camp. “It’s good to be asked to do a relatively new festival like Camden Crawl, and especially when it’s associated with up-and-coming bands. With Death In Vegas it doesn’t feel like ‘it’s that band from ages ago who’ve come back’, we’ve got a new band and there’s a strong energy there.”
Not only that, but Fearless is buoyed by the many newer acts citing him as an influence: “I’ve never differentiated between using a 303 or a guitar, and more bands are doing that now, it’s fantastic. I just did a remix for TOY, who were probably just born when the first album came out, and The Horrors were down the other night.
“It’s brilliant, but weird to hear: you get a band like Kasabian saying: ‘We signed to BMG because of you.’ When you’re sat in your studio, making music, on your own, you forget you might influence other people.”
With bands and festivals welcoming Death in Vegas back with open arms, Fearless reveals that they’re doing “pretty much two or three festivals a weekend for the whole summer”, but stops short of naming any bar Primavera and Camden Crawl: “I put my foot in it the other day, so I’ll have to be careful!” It seems like that feeling of being missed is mutual: “When I stopped doing Death In Vegas I’d had eight straight years of festivals. I felt like I needed a break, but when we went back last year, I found I’d missed it actually.”
If you really want Richard’s festival seal of approval, you’ll have to do a bit better than the standard beer tent and funfair though: “I like ones like Glastonbury and Electric Picnic, where there’s a bit more thought put into it, and creative stuff going on. I want to be walking round at 4am discovering a boat hanging from a tree with a load of dancing dwarves around it.”
Fitting then, that Worthy Farm is also the setting for Richard’s most memorable festival moment. “We just really lucked out, I think it was Travis, then the Pet Shop Boys on the Main Stage and on the Second Stage it was us, then Leftfield,” he says. “It was sunset, with 60,000 people going absolutely bananas. A friend of mine filmed it, and I had to do an edit of something recently and went through the footage. I wish I’d been a bit more together to soak it up at the time!”
With Death In Vegas’ 2012 festival schedule, there should be plenty of opportunities to put that right.
Death In Vegas will headline the Opening Night party at Camden Crawl 2012.
Camden Crawl tickets are on sale now, with Opening Night Party tickets priced at £21.60, and Weekend Tickets priced at £83.70 (including Opening Night access) and £72.90 (5-6 May only).
VIP Tickets, including Opening night admission, are priced at £162.
Click to buy Camden Crawl tickets.