Grant Nicholas, lead singer and guitarist with rock band Feeder, chats with Kevin Cooper about his broken boiler, playing at Rock City, their latest album Feeder The Best Of and their forthcoming tour of the UK.

Grant Nicholas is a Welsh musician, best known as the lead singer and lead guitarist of the rock band Feeder. Formed in Newport, Wales they have gone on to release eleven studio albums, three compilations, two EPs and thirty four singles.

Following the death in 2002 of fellow band member and great friend, John Lee, there were moments when it was thought that the band would call time on their Feeder days, but after having some time away writing and touring with his debut solo album, Yorktown Heights and his mini album Black Clouds, Nicholas is back and is about to tour with Feeder with their The Best Of album.

Whilst busy preparing for their forthcoming tour to celebrate their The Best Of album, Grant Nicholas took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Grant good morning how are you?

I’m good thanks’ Kevin, how are you doing?

I’m very well thank you, and before we move on let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

That’s okay; it’s always a pleasure whenever I get the chance to speak to you.

Have I caught you today in the infamous headless chicken mode (laughter)?

(Laughter) you have indeed. I’m currently running around like the proverbial headless chicken. We have recently had some pretty heavy snow down here and my boiler has broken down just as I am preparing to go back out on tour (laughter). So the family and I have been sitting in a freezing cold house for the past few days trying to get someone to come out and fix it for us. The joys of rock and roll (laughter).

Dare I ask, apart from the problems with the boiler, just how is life treating you today?

Life at the moment is good but as you can imagine at this moment in time it is also very busy. As you know I am always doing stuff anyway but on top of that I am trying to get everything finalised for the forthcoming tour. Plus we are currently working our way through a massive catalogue of music; there are almost too many songs, so at the moment we are trying to pick the songs that we feel are going to work whilst trying to keep it as close to a festival best of set, together with a few of the old songs that we haven’t played in a while which we can alternate during the tour.

It’s funny you saying that because I was recently looking at the track listing for The Best Of album and there are forty one tracks on the double CD set and fifty tracks on the three CD set. Just how the hell are you going to choose a set list for the forthcoming tour?

To be honest it is proving to be very difficult because we have some of the older fans who obviously want to hear some of the really early stuff, and then we have got some of the newer fans who obviously want to hear some of the newer more commercial stuff. So at the moment I have to be totally honest with you and say that it is proving very hard to keep everyone happy (laughter). You can guarantee that someone will say “oh they didn’t play the old stuff” and the newer fans are happy because they don’t particularly want to hear those songs. What I can say is that we are trying our hardest to cater for both sets of fans, both old and new.

Also at the same time as catering for the fans, we are trying to keep it all interesting for ourselves too. So yes, it is proving to be tricky but I think that we will be alternating the set list as the tour goes on. I think that the best thing for us to do is to just go out there and have a bit of fun with it. The idea is to keep the set list pretty free so that we can drop a different song in there every night if we feel like doing so.

Stepping backwards for a moment if I may, you and I last spoke prior to the release of your last studio album All Bright Electric. Were you happy with the fans reaction to the album?

Yes I was, the fans reaction to the album was amazing. I personally really do still love that album and it was very difficult for me not to put all of the songs on the album into the mix for The Best Of album. Every one of the tracks on that album are really great fun to play live. The album also shows a rather heavier side to Feeder whilst being quite anthemic at the same time. We really enjoyed that tour, and we did find ourselves playing quite a few shows in the end. The first tour totally sold out and then we realised that we could probably play a few more. So we found ourselves playing for another six weeks as the second part of the tour which wasn’t really long enough but we really did feel that we wanted to carry on with the good vibe.

During our chat I told you that my favourite track on the album was Eskimo and so I am pleased to see that it has made its way onto The Best Of album.

Yes it has and you will also be pleased to know that Eskimo is on the set list. That is also one of my favourite tracks on All Bright Electric together with Universe Of Life which is a big, rocking, anthemic song too. But Eskimo is right up there with my favourite songs on All Bright Electric. We can alternate things nightly because we have got all of the singles that we can play; Paperweight, Universe Of Live, Another Day On Earth and Eskimo so those four songs will appear here and there as the tour progresses but hopefully we will be keeping Eskimo in the set list for the duration of the tour.

After releasing your solo albums Yorktown Heights in 2014 and Black Clouds in 2015, it now feels that you are fully committed and back into Feeder mode. Would you agree with that?

Yes I would, I would totally agree with that. As you know I don’t like to do the two things together, but I keep being asked to record some more some solo stuff. It may be Feeder but for me it is very much a full time thing and I don’t want to feel like I am diluting that message. I feel the same whenever I am writing the songs; there are two very distinct headspaces for me together with a totally different vibe. Whilst I do touch on the mellow stuff with Feeder at times, for me it is still very much in a different headspace. I just don’t like doing the two together. I like to wait for there to be a window when I can go back and do a few solo things whilst keeping the two totally separate from one another.

I didn’t play any Feeder songs on my solo tour at all. The crowds were expecting me to throw in a couple of the obvious big Feeder hits but I felt that it would be nice just to keep those back for when I went back to the Feeder thing.

Going back to The Best Of album, who had the final say as to which tracks made it onto the album and which missed the cut?

It was a combination of me and the band, although BMG obviously did have some input because they wanted the collection to be made up of all the single releases that we have made over the years. However, because we have released so many singles, and obviously rarer singles like Down To The River, Piece By Piece together with the double A Sides, there were so many singles that if we had put them all on then we would have had far too many tracks. As some of our favourite tracks which we wanted to put on the album were never put out as singles, the whole project was just getting far too big. It was at this point that BMG then suggested that perhaps The Best Of collection should become a box set but we didn’t really want to do that.

We thought that it would be too much information for the fans to listen to. We thought that we should perhaps save the idea of a box set for when the band calls it a day when we would then maybe put everything into a box set (laughter). For the band The Best Of collection is more about a celebration of our history, including the singles which go right back to the start of the band, together with a few rarer double A Sided singles on there as well. So I guess that it was more of a team effort from both the management and us and at the end of the day we could have said “this is what we want” but it is always a good thing to work with the label because you know that you will always get far more out of them if you work with them and not against them.

Looking at The Best Of collection now, is there anything that has missed the cut which you now think should be on the album?

(Laughter) yes there is, songs such as My Perfect Day, which was never released as a single but to me is a classic Feeder track together with Infrared-Ultraviolet from All Bright Electric which is one of my all-time favourite tracks (laughter). The list of tracks which I now feel should be on the album goes on forever. In fact there are another twenty songs which I personally would have put onto The Best Of collection (laughter). We were just trying to celebrate our history as a band whilst letting people know that we have had a bit of success in the charts as well which we really didn’t realise ourselves until we started looking back over the singles.

A lot of people know Feeder but they don’t really know that we have done that amount of stuff. We have always been more of an Indie Rock band who were signed to a smaller label who despite having a fair amount of success, have never really been in people’s faces, not like a mainstream act such as Stereophonics. I think that a lot of people go ‘oh I didn’t know that they did that’ so The Best Of collection is quite a good reminder to the people out there and also to ourselves. You actually do forget just how many singles you have put out over the years.

When you were going back over the possible songs for The Best Of collection, did you encounter any nice surprises where you thought ‘I had forgotten that we had recorded that’?

(Laughter) yes there were. There were quite a few actually. For example, a few of the singles from our Silent Cry album, which I have always thought were very strong, but looking back at them now, they possibly came out at the wrong time for us. Song wise I think that the album has got some of the best Feeder songs on it, but it was an album which unfortunately was released when our label at the time, The Echo Label Limited, were just about to fold. So it was released at a very difficult time, and I think that it got a little bit lost which is a shame really but certainly some of the material from that album which we passed by, songs like the title track itself Silent Cry I think is a really good song, together with Tracing Lines and We Are The People. I had forgotten about those because we haven’t played them for a while.

Will you now have to go back and relearn some of the songs ready for the upcoming tour?

(Laughter) most definitely, I will have to go back and relearn some of the very early songs, although we have kind of worked them out, but I am not saying that we will be playing them every night which would mean us leaving off some of the bigger songs that they people want to hear. However, we will at some point during the tour be dropping them into the set list here and there. I am going to see just how it feels and just how much I can do physically because it is a very long set. In fact for me it is a vocal marathon, and it is the longest set that I have ever had to do in my career. There are so many different albums, so many different dynamics, which makes you use your voice a lot.

Also this will most probably be the longest set that we have ever played. Rock music is so very intense so I am trying not to overdo it. There will be some mellow moments during the set to help me with that. It is difficult to know just how long to play without overplaying. The secret is getting the right balance. Hopefully after we have played a few shows we will get into a mode; find our feet and start dropping in a few songs that people won’t be expecting.

The tour arrives here in Nottingham at Rock City on Friday 16th March, what can we expect?

I can’t wait, I am really looking forward to the tour. You should expect a great show because I love Rock City, it is one of my all-time favourite venues. I love that place; it has got such a great atmosphere. We always have a great show whenever we play in Nottingham. They are great audiences, and to be honest Rock City was the first venue to sell-out for the forthcoming tour. The tickets literally flew out and I think that we could have possibly played there for two nights. However, we would rather leave it and then we can go back and play some more dates, in fact let’s just say that we don’t want to outstay our welcome (laughter). Nottingham has always been, right since day one, a great place for us. We always have great audiences in a truly great party venue. It may be intimate but it still a really good sized venue and I am totally fine with that.

I have to ask, are there currently any thoughts on a new Feeder studio album?

Well, it’s funny that you should ask me that because officially the answer is no, there are currently no thoughts on a new Feeder studio album. However, I have started writing. I wasn’t meant to, but that is the trouble with me, I picked up the guitar to remind myself of some of the old Feeder tracks in order to relearn them in my studio at home and I found myself writing four new Feeder songs (laughter). So I have already got a list of songs that is growing and thinking about it we may in fact do something different this time. We may just do a bit of recording and put out a few singles, a few standalone tracks perhaps throughout the year. I’m not sure. If any of them get picked up then perhaps we can add them to the next album. As you know I am always writing so there will be more.

What was the first record that you bought?

I’m sure that would have been when I was eight years old. I went off to the local record shop near to where I lived and bought myself the Arrival album by ABBA (laughter). And even today I feel that it is a great pop record.

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

That would have been Black Sabbath at the Colston Hall in Bristol.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Oh that is quite a tough one. I have always liked Songbird by Fleetwood Mac. I always find myself getting quite emotional whenever I hear that song. I have always thought of Songbird as being a really simple and lovely little song. And if Songbird doesn’t get me then anything by Nick Drake will.

On that note Grant let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today. Once again it’s been a pleasure and I am looking forward to seeing you at Rock City.

No problem Kevin, it’s been fantastic. You take care and I will see you then. Bye for now.