Taka Hirose, Grant Nicholas and Mark Richardson of Feeder
But now he looks me straight in the eye as he recalls the night almost exactly 20 years ago when Feeder co-founder and original drummer Jon Lee killed himself at the 33 years old. Less than a year prior, Feeder’s third album Echo Park had taken them to the Top 5 for the first time, going platinum in the process.
It was also the album that contained their first major hit single, Buck Rogers. Grant shakes his head.
Jon, he says, “was a great personality; a good guy to have around and we worked well together. Just a really fun person to be with. That’s why all of this still haunts me.”
“But you never know what’s really going on and what their situations are. He lived in America and I didn’t know much about his life there.
Grant says the recent death of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins brought it all back to him.
“The thing with Taylor Hawkins was just… wow. Obviously, I met Dave Grohl a few times. I met Taylor, went backstage several times.”
“We did a few shows together. Dave used to come and watch us sometimes. So it was a huge shock, and I still can’t figure it out now.”
“He had it all. He was part of one of the most famous rock bands in the world. He was very popular and positive; you often saw Taylor and Dave together. They’ve always been a pair, haven’t they? So I think he will find it very difficult.
The feeder band started 30 years ago
The 50-year-old drummer suffered a near-fatal heroin overdose in London in 2001 that left him in a coma for two weeks.
When a preliminary urinary toxicology report released the day after his death indicated that Hawkins had ten substances in his system at the time of his death, including opioids, benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants and THC, the psychoactive compound of marijuana, the question was whether the overdose had been accidental.
Grant shrugs. “I mean maybe [Taylor] had to take some things to keep him alive [and] I overdid it that night. Maybe his body just couldn’t handle it that night. It’s hard to say. I do not really know.
The conversation returns to Lee, whom Grant still often thinks of. “Actually, I was thinking about him this morning as I was running. It comes and goes.”
“We did three albums with Jon. But we’ve done a lot more albums since then, so we’ve evolved as a band, but I still think about him a lot because we started the band together.”
Feeder had started with Nicholas and Lee, originally from Newport, leaving Wales together in the early 90s, both aged 23, and coming to London to perform on the streets.
“We used to do anything Beatles, Police, Tears for Fears – a Simon & Garfunkel vibe. In fact, as a joke, we would call the band Simon and Grantly’s Uncle.
They added original compositions and immediately started getting noticed. They formed the short-lived band Raindancer (still on YouTube) for an obscure TV talent show. He cringes when I mention it.
But it’s remarkable how close they sound to Feeder. They don’t have the grungy guitars and drums, but the songs are all great, stadium-filling pop anthems. Exactly the kind of thing Grant has always excelled in writing for Feeder.
“Maybe,” he smiled, “but what about the earring I’m wearing?”
And the big mop of 80s-style curly hair swinging over your head, I might add.
He’s laughing. “In fact, this hairstyle has become very fashionable again, I noticed, among young people.”
Grant, 55 this year, no longer has the hair to pull off this look. His once pretty feminine face is now partially hidden behind a black pepper beard with a hint of salt and a Steve McQueen-style creased brow.
But it retains the cheeky wheelbarrow boy charm that helped make Feeder one of the most successful British rock bands of the past 25 years – sixteen hit singles, several sold-out tours and eight Top 10 albums, including their latest, Torpedo, which went Top Five.
Grant Nicholas turns 5 this year but doesn’t feel too old to still make music
As lead songwriter, Grant balances what he calls the band’s “hovercraft guitars” with the simple chemicals of what makes a good song.
“I always wanted to be a band that had songs that you could hear 20 years from now that would still sound relevant. Love or hate Oasis, they have songs you know you’ll be hearing 20, 30 years from now. If you can write some timeless ones in your career, then I’m happy and always try to do that.
Grant lives in North London with his Japanese wife Kana and their teenage children. I notice he’s lost his Welsh accent. If he ever had one. Educated privately, he grew up in South Wales, “around Chepstow”. Classy Wales.
“Not really,” he smiles, “because I grew up just across the border, it’s a bit of a mix of Newport Welsh accent and Bristol accent. If I’ve had a few drinks on some words, I sound rather Welsh, but I’ve been in London a long time.
As the band take a break from wrapping up a UK tour in May and starting several summer festival appearances, they wish they could do more. “But availability is a big issue right now. After two years of absence, everyone is filming at the moment. It went from nothing to everything.
While Torpedo brought Feeder back to the charts, it also garnered some of the best reviews they’ve ever had, including an excellent review from Daily Express by Garry Bushell.
“The circle is complete in some respects. Maybe it was a frustration of being locked out, not being able to play, it brought a bit of attitude again.
Nonetheless, as Grant is the first to acknowledge, the music business has changed dramatically since Feeder’s debut 30 years ago.
“It’s not about selling records anymore. It’s a completely different scene.
All the foundations that helped Feeder become famous no longer exist: MTV doesn’t play music videos and nobody pays attention to the radio.
That’s all TikTok now and while once upon a time their brand of grunge-lite matey, powered by Grant’s scruffy golden boy charm, might have suited the format, Feeder is too long in the musical tooth to make do with it. all this now.
Feeder’s next album is already recorded and should be released in 2023
“The radio always plays our old hits, but nothing new interests them. My children don’t listen to the radio either. It’s all phones and Snapchat.”
“There are artists on radio who can’t sell out venues and there’s an artist on TikTok that I’ve never heard of who just sold out two nights at Alexandra Palace. There’s no more rules.”
With their next album already recorded and slated for release in 2023, this summer, Feeder is opening up huge outdoor shows for Noel Gallagher and Bryan Adams.
“If you come to our shows, it’s such a diverse audience. You have a mosh pit. Crowd of surfers. Die-hard Feeder fans who have been around since day one. You have rock lovers, some students, independent kids. Then you have very young children.
He continues: “If ever it feels like we’re trying to do something that we’re a little too old to do, I’ll definitely stop. But I still have a lot of passion. We all have. Because there aren’t many like us in the UK anymore.