Grant Nicholas, a Welsh musician and lead singer and guitarist with Feeder, chats with Kevin Cooper about his song writing during the lockdown, his thoughts on streaming platforms, the release of their latest album Torpedo and their forthcoming 2022 UK tour.

Grant Nicholas is a Welsh musician, lead singer and guitarist of the indie rock band, Feeder.

Whilst working as a bike courier in London, he learnt how to write songs. When he was 19 he joined a progressive rock band called Multi-Story. After releasing one album, the band disbanded, freeing Nicholas up to join Welsh nine piece Temper Temper, where he met future Feeder drummer Jon Lee.

Nicholas and Lee formed Feeder in 1994 and were joined by London based graphic designer Taka Hirose who took over bass duties in 1995. They released their debut single Stereo World in 1996 which reached number 128 in the UK charts, whilst their second single Tangerine reached number 60. Their first album Polythene was released in May 1997 which did reasonably well given that it was not very well promoted. Since then the band have released a further ten albums including 2022’s Torpedo.

In 2002 drummer Jon Lee took his own life, but Nicholas and Hirose took the difficult decision to carry on with Feeder as an initial homage to him. In 2019 Feeder were inducted into the Kerrang! Radio Hall of Fame for their Distinguished Services to Rock.

In 2014 Nicholas released his solo album, Yorktown Heights, which charted at number 29 in the UK album charts.

Whilst busy promoting and rehearsing for Feeder’s forthcoming tour, he 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 today?

I’m fine thanks Kevin, how are you?

I have to be totally honest with you and say that I am feeling very old at this moment in time as its five years now since you and I last spoke (laughter).

No way, is it really that long?

Yes, it is, time really is flying.

I personally feel that with the whole lockdown thing, we feel like we have lost two whole years; they simply disappeared (laughter).

Whilst on the subject of the lockdown, you have managed to put it to good use, haven’t you?

Yes, I have, I have been busy writing. The latest album has done really well, and I am really chuffed about that, it went top five which is really great. Hopefully we will have the tour going ahead so, I feel that we have turned a really big corner and let’s just hope that we can carry on like that.

I have to ask, just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Life at this moment is really good; I am finding myself really busy. I am currently doing the PR for the forthcoming tour and so yesterday I started at 10am and finished at 7pm. I am trying to get as many interviews as possible out of the way because what with answering a constant stream of questions, followed by rehearsals, I find that my voice has totally gone before I get myself into the studio (laughter). Having said that, everything is really positive, and it is all geared up around the tour.

You mention the tour which we will come onto a little later, but for now could we talk about the latest album, Torpedo?

Yes, of course, go for it.

I have to say that I have been playing the album for a couple of weeks now and I think that it is a great piece of work.

Thank you, it is really great to hear that.

Are you happy with it?

Yes, I am. I have lived with it now for quite a while, so I am obviously very close to it. We recorded it in my home studio so I have had a lot of time to live with it. So I have gone through the usual emotions; is it any good, is it really good enough, will the people like it sort of thing. However, when it was finally released, it has done really well. We never had any expectations for this album, because it was originally going to be released as a mini-album or as they would have said back in the day, an EP (laughter). After going through lockdown for two years we were thinking of putting it out as an EP as a fan base thing in order to test out the water.

However, when I played some of the tracks to the team, the response was amazing. They were all saying “wow, this is really amazing; you really should put it out there as an album”. It was at that point that we decided to put out a full album, which was no problem as we had already got a few finished songs that we had put together before lockdown. Then, one of the team asked, “why not put it out as a double album” (laughter). So, it had gone through being three different things, an EP, an album and then a double album (laughter). So, the songs that we had recorded before lockdown will be on the next album. There are sixteen tracks which are more in a rock vein than this album.

So, what I am trying to say is that the next album is going to be almost like the second half of this album, so what you are getting is a double album in two halves (laughter). They are still going to be stand alone albums, but to me, those songs are still very connected because all of the songs were written and recorded during the same time period. There are some pre lockdown songs; there is some of the stuff that I did during lockdown, and then some which I recorded afterwards.

Was it seriously considered as a double album at any stage?

Yes, it was. I personally would love to make a double album but there has to be a hell of a lot of information, and it has to be strong. The problem with double albums is that it could be a great single album, but then you lose a little bit along the way, so it would have to be really strong. I have often thought about making a double album or a double CD but making each album slightly different from the other. That way, you could record an album that is mellow whilst the second album is heavier than the first, or you could just have it mixed. I would never make a double album that is crazy long; I’m talking about thirty-two tracks maximum, which is eight on each side, which is perfect for vinyl. If you put too many tracks onto a vinyl album, then you are seriously compromising the sound.

And if there are any vinyl purists out there, it is far better not to put too many tracks on there. But, having said all of that, I really would like to record a double album at some stage. We have previously done it with our Best Of albums and CD’s, but we have never really done a proper double album. Its proper old school; it is something different and it very much reminds me of all of the Prog Rock bands that I grew up listening to (laughter). I think that we are now at the stage in our career where it would be nice to try something different, and I think that we have done enough to justify putting out a double album. Let’s just say ‘who knows’ (laughter). The second half may well end up being a double album as were certainly have enough tracks. It all depends upon the strength of it really. Sometimes these things just happen (laughter).

There used to be lots of double albums back in the day, but they are not so common now. Maybe after the whole lockdown thing, people had amassed a lot of material, so you may see a few more double albums out there this time around. I know that Johnny Marr, formally The Smiths guitarist, his latest solo album is a double, I recently saw that, so he has gone down the double album route because he put in a lot of songs. Having said all of that, I think that I did the right thing with this album as I wanted to really focus on making this album a 70s type of thing with five tracks on each side of a vinyl album. There are actually eleven tracks on the CD, the eleventh track being a so-called bonus track (laughter).

I managed to do that simply because putting eleven tracks on a CD doesn’t compromise the sound quality. However, any more than ten tracks on the vinyl really does start to affect the sound quality. I personally feel that if people are prepared to spend an awful lot of money on vinyl albums, then I think that they should sound good. I put the album out on heavyweight good quality 180gms vinyl. The amazing thing is that the vinyl album has sold out now as well; it has all gone (laughter). It’s a really great feeling and is such a different feeling to the one that you have when you have boxes and boxes of unsold albums cluttering up your garage (laughter).

With Brexit, together with the current troubles over in Europe, did you find it difficult to get the albums pressed?

Yes, I did, and let me tell you, there is a really long wait now. A hell of lot of the pressing plants are in Poland, Germany, places like that, so I imagine that slows things up as well. It is much slower than it ever was. There are not that many pressing plants still operating here in the UK. I can’t remember if this album was cut over in Europe, or if they found someone who was still doing it here. Hopefully, we might see a change in that; more people might start manufacturing them here in the UK. It would be great if they did because it would cut out the transport problems of getting the albums from Europe and into the UK.

At least then, they would have to be more competitive with the price, but the people, who do the cutting in Germany, are actually one of the very best; they do it really well. Apparently, there is quite an art to getting everything correct, it’s not that easy, people need to know exactly what it is that they are doing. It’s great that we have sold out of the vinyl, and its good news that the sales of CD’s are once again picking up. It’s great that the young kids are now getting into owning music on a physical medium. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it is ever going to come back as big as it was in its heyday, but it is most definitely going to get better.

I’m old school, so whenever I make an album it is all about the artwork, the credits, how the sleeve opens up, and obviously the music. I spent weeks and weeks getting all of that right; it really was a labour of love. I am really passionate about that, and it means a lot to us, as a band, and I have to say that we have always cared about that. I always want the albums to look as good as they can, to have a really strong sleeve, as I believe that the sleeve of an album contains both the music’s and the band’s identity. I love to see a classic sleeve.

On the subject of classic sleeve, I love Roger Dean’s work from back in the 70s when he created some absolutely fantastic sleeves for Tamla Motown and Yes.

Yes, I totally agree. I love a lot of 70s stuff, those classic 70s covers; especially all of the Led Zeppelin stuff, together with the Pink Floyd stuff; it really is great. We were trying to get something that had that kind of early Roxy Music look to it and I feel that the Torpedo cover has got a slightly retro feel to it.

I was recently speaking to Jim Kerr from Simple Minds, and he was saying that there is a worldwide shortage of cardboard for the album sleeves.

Really, well I can honestly believe that, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that was in fact the case. There is a worldwide shortage of lots of things at the moment. Even getting tour merchandise produced is proving to be very tricky. You have to order so far ahead. If you are thinking of going out on the road on tour, you might find that there is only a certain colour available, plus all of the prices have gone up as well. There seems to be a shortage of lots of things at the moment, so yes, it is quite tricky because these things are important to the band whenever they tour.

Going back to the album, I currently have four go to tracks; two of which I would say are typical Feeder tracks, and two that are more mellow and show off your voice in a much softer light. They are The Healing, Desperate Hour, Wall Of Silence and Hide And Seek.

Thank you, I too really like the more relaxed and chilled out tracks on the album. We are finding that both Desperate Hour and Hide And Seek work really well whenever we play them live. We are going to try to play that at every gig because it just breaks up the heaviness which is our trade mark really. We are known for writing songs that are super mellow and then going on from that to the heavier and more anthemic type of songs. If you think back, Led Zeppelin had that; they had their folksy songs and then they had the likes of Kashmir and Black Dog. I have always loved those types of bands, the bands that I grew up listening to, and the ones who had a big influence on me. I feel that it just makes the band a little more interesting, more dynamic.

I personally feel that your voice is getter better. Would you agree with that?

(Laughter) I don’t know if I should agree with you on that, I’m getting older so anything could happen. Your voice normally gets worse with age, that tends to be the way that it goes (laughter). I don’t know, I suppose that I am a bit more comfortable, but you have to remember that I never really wanted to be a singer. I just wanted to write songs and play the guitar. The singing side of things just came because I used to sing backing vocals with a band when I was a kid. Their lead singer kept losing his voice, so I would help them out by filling in. It was at that point that one of the band said, “you sound better than our regular singer, why don’t you carry on singing” (laughter).

So, they told him to leave the band and I carried on singing (laughter). I never had the burning desire to be a front man who sang, it just sort of happened. However, because I am a songwriter, I just found myself becoming the singer. I still call myself a guitar player who sings, and it still feels really weird whenever anyone says to me, “aren’t you the lead singer in Feeder” (laughter).

You mention the fact that you regard yourself as a songwriter; you had a bout of writers block back in 2020. Did that worry or frighten you in anyway?

To be totally honest with you, I don’t actually think that I had writer’s block. It was more a case of not really wanting to write any new songs as I didn’t feel that there was a need. We had already written and recorded enough songs for the next Feeder record, so that was going to be it really. Then, along came Covid, and all of the tours were cancelled, and I just thought, ‘well, what should I do now’ (laughter). I didn’t feel like picking up my guitar as much as usual and trying to write new Feeder stuff. I felt like that for the first month or so of lockdown, and then I got back into it. I didn’t really have writer’s block; I just really didn’t have a reason to do it.

But then, I suddenly found myself feeling that I did have a reason to do it, as I was starting to go mad at home, so I thought that I had better do something (laughter). I was still playing my guitar a bit at home. I wasn’t not playing it, but I didn’t have that album sort of thing in my head. Then, I just started writing a few new songs, which I found came out very naturally, which formed the basis pretty much of this album. So, it went from between four and six weeks of not doing any writing, to suddenly doing loads (laughter).

The Feeder fans are already saying that Torpedo is your best work to date. Would you agree with that?

I don’t know about that but what I can say is that the response to Torpedo really has been amazing. I really did not expect it. I have to tell you that we weren’t even going to take this album to the radio stations. We were intending to release it as a fan-based thing together with a few small gigs based around it. But it really has taken off and has a life of its own. I think that it is a really complete record; it flows really well. I personally feel that the previous album Tallulah is a very good album; there are a lot of elements of all of our previous work on that record, but I feel that Shapes And Sounds is one of our best records. I feel that has got something special about it.

Having said all of that, Torpedo is most definitely up there. If you are into the rockier side of Feeder, then Torpedo is most definitely up there. It is hard to say if it is out best or not, but it feels like one of the most complete. I just like the flow of it and what it is that we are trying to say. I always find answering a question like that very hard as I always feel that I am far too close to the record to comment.

You have briefly mentioned that you already have enough material in the can for a new album in 2023. Just what can you tell me about it?

Well, hopefully that it will be coming out sometime next year (laughter). As I mentioned earlier, this was always going to be an album of two halves, so if we leave it too long, it will lose the momentum that we are trying to build up. It would be nice to leave not too long a gap between the two releases. Having that in mind, we haven’t scheduled too many dates in the forthcoming tour simply because we will want to play some more once the next recorded is released. The last thing that we want to be doing is over touring, although I don’t think that there is much danger of that as we have only played a handful of gigs during the last three years (laughter).

You know what promoters are like; there are so many bands out there that are itching to play. It is almost as though the market has been swamped, everyone wants to play it seems. The market is being bombarded with tours that didn’t take place a year ago now. It is going to be a perfect Feeder album, it will still be rocky, but, saying that I don’t know exactly what will find its way onto the album. I am writing more stuff, so it may change slightly; there are most definitely some more heavy, Indie band songs on there. It will be a bit summery in places, together with a few rock moments and a few anthemic moments. It will be very melodic. I know that this album is melodic, but in a different way. I have already written another six songs, so the forthcoming album has already slightly changed a bit (laughter).

It sounds to me as though it is heading towards being a double album (laughter).

(Laughter) I know what you are saying, and it could happen. If there are songs that we most definitely do not want to leave off the album, who knows, it could very well happen. It could also even end up being a triple album couldn’t it (laughter).

Perhaps you should do what Tamla Motown did back in 1976 when they released Stevie Wonder’s double album, Songs InThe Key Of Life complete with a bonus four track EP?

There was talk about us putting out an EP if we had enough tracks to allow us to do that, and we were, in fact, thinking about dropping an EP later this year, around the time of the summer festivals. We were intending putting three or four tracks on there with the lead track being off the album which will be coming out sometime next year, but, thinking about it, we are not sure. Dropping an EP is a good way of getting the songs out there, plus it gently introduces a new track to people. Plus, the fans can get their hands on a few new songs that they can’t get anywhere else. I think that if we did that, then it would most certainly be a single album, the other half of this, and that could well be a much better way of doing it.

Saturday 23rdApril you are going back out on the road. Are you looking forward to that?

I really can’t wait (laughter). It is going to be a Feeder tour from the 90s in many ways, because this album really connects well with our early material on 1997s album Polythene. We will be revisiting some of the songs from that period, plus we will be playing a lot of the new album because this is a new album tour. It is not a greatest hits tour. If you want to hear Feeders best of every time, then come along and see us at festivals. Of course, we will still be playing a few of the old gems, but it’s not going to be a three-quarter set of greatest hits which would not give us the opportunity to play any of the new songs.

The album has gone down so well that I honestly feel that the fans are going to want to hear some of the new songs being performed life. Hopefully, it will be a really good mix focusing on the new record, some really good old Feeder stuff that we haven’t played for a while so that for us it is going to be like playing new songs again. Plus, there will be a few big hitters here and there.

Will you be having anyone supporting you or a special guest or two on the tour?

Now that’s a very good question (laughter). We will be getting that sorted very soon. The problem that we are faced with is that all of these tours have been on and then off, but fingers crossed we will be getting it all sorted before the tour starts. What I like to do is try and have as many different bands as possible. In an ideal world I would love to have a different band opening for us every night. That way it gives everyone a chance to impress. I accept and appreciate that it is difficult for a Tour Manager to organise that, so we may settle for two or three bands opening for us on certain nights of the tour, which is how we normally do it.

We very rarely have just the one band as I like to keep things interesting. I am already being bombarded with people sending me stuff; I have friends who are in bands, I have got mates who manage bands, and so it is always very tricky. The agency wants their bands to support us, the tour manager has a mate in a band; it just goes on and on (laughter). There are some great bands out there so hopefully we will have some decent support that will be getting announced quite soon.

You are playing here in Nottingham on 3rd May, what do you think to our fair city?

I was there in Nottingham recently, on Sunday 20th March in fact where I met a lot of the fans at Rough Trade. We were down to play the Revibe Live where you go and play at some tiny venues, in an attempt to save the venues. They really were great fun. You were playing on some really tiny little stages, there were people literally in your face, and I have to say that it was absolutely brilliant. However, having said all of that, I had a horrible chest and the rest of the guys felt ill. I’m just finally getting over it now, but it meant that I was unable to do the performance side of things. We stayed the night and the following morning I had a walk around the city centre, and I loved what I saw, especially the vintage shops and in particular, the vintage clothes shop that you have up there.

I found it to be pretty cool around there; I believe that they call that area of the city Hockley. I do quite like Nottingham; it certainly has a good vibe about it. It looks quite like a bit of a party sort of place (laughter). It really does kick into life on a Saturday night (laughter). They did tell me that it is a ratio of three to one women over men. Is that true or is someone winding me up (laughter).

Apparently, I am reliably informed that it used to be eight to one.

Really, my god! I think that Nottingham would be a good place to live (laughter). Obviously, I love Rock City, it’s one of the best venues in the country. We are always faced with some amazing audiences whenever we play there. Nottingham has always been loyal to us; it has always been a strong area for us.

The one comment which I frequently get from bands is that the ceiling is a tad too low to take a decent lighting rig up there with you.

I totally agree, that’s the only problem, you cannot put on a big production in there. Having said that, we did take some big screens in there with us, and I have to say that they were too much for the venue to cope with. But you know what, it really doesn’t matter. It is a great place for the audiences as they really are so close to the band. You really do feel so close to the audience because I hate being too far away with these barriers. They really do make you feel so separated; I like too really be in there. It is just a really great atmosphere in there, combined with really great audiences. I know that it’s not the sort of place where you come to see a huge production; it’s where you come to see a band and rock out.

We always manage to get some great pictures from Rock City as the photographers are literally in your face which isn’t always a good thing, especially if I have had a heavy night the night before a show (laughter).

You have already briefly mentioned festivals; will you be playing many festivals this summer?

Yes, we are, in fact I think that we are playing somewhere between eight or ten. We will be playing at most of the big ones. We did play a couple of festivals towards the end of last year, but I have to say that the good slots have now been booked for at least a couple of years now. There are a lot of roll-on festivals where bands that were due to play didn’t play because of Covid so they will now automatically be playing in the same time-slot that they should have done two years ago now. So, as you can imagine, all of the good slots have now been taken. So, because it is very hard for us to get a decent slot, we decided that we would wait and try to play at the big festivals next year, and we will be playing at some of the smaller festivals this year.

Don’t get me wrong, they are not all tiny, they are still a very decent size, and they really are great. In fact, sometimes we love them more as they seem to be a bit more relaxed, they are really well done, so we are going to do that. Then, we might play a few more dates around this current album, and then next year hopefully, we will put together another tour and blitz some festivals, hopefully some bigger ones. If any opportunities come up and we are offered them, then we will do them. We are going to be supporting Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds in Wales and we are really looking forward to that. So, yes, there are a few offers coming in, but we are not playing Reading or any of the super big ones.

Taking you back to August 2019, you were inducted into Kerrang Radios Hall of Fame. How did that feel?

Obviously, to get anything like that is nice, although I do have to say that it made me feel old (laughter). Kerrang have been pretty good to us over the years. I know that it was Kerrang Radio which has nothing at all to do with the magazine, but it is still a very nice thing to receive. We have got a few Kerrang awards, some from the magazine, some from the radio, and it is always nice to be acknowledged for what it is that we do. People have always known us, and we have always been successful, and we have reached a certain level but, we have always been a bit more indie rock than let’s say Stereophonics for example. For some people we have always been a little more under the radar. In some ways I don’t mind that; I think that it has made us a bit less in people’s faces, and it has probably made us a little less annoying (laughter).

At least it wasn’t an award for services to the music industry otherwise you would be dead by now (laughter).

Yes, I know, exactly (laughter). Although I wouldn’t be complaining as I am happy to accept any award (laughter). I have received a few awards for writing, and let me tell you, it is always nice to receive any award. I feel that Feeder are one of those bands who people appreciate more when we are not doing it and that’s not a bad thing and I don’t mean that in a negative way, I feel that there are a lot of people who don’t actually know what we have done, and that is the same with a lot of bands. Unless you are all over daytime radio and TV then people will often say, “Feeder, are they still going” (laughter). Some people simply do not follow music. But at this moment in time, things are going great; we have just had another top five album, which is okay for an Indie Rock band (laughter). So, I really can’t complain.

You have been active in the music business now for some twenty-eight years, so you must have seen lots of changes. What one thing has surprised you the most?

For me, the whole social media thing has been the biggest change. That really is one massive change. Back in the day we were touring America in the 90s and we didn’t even have mobile phones (laughter). We had a band emergency phone which we carried around in a suitcase (laughter). It was totally crazy as the calls from this phone cost a hundred quid. So, for me social media really has been a massive change together with the advance in technology. We could never have made this album in the way that we have some twenty years ago. It would have been totally impossible. I never saw Taka (Hirose) at anytime during lockdown; I simply sent tracks over to him.

Back in the day that would have been almost impossible for me to do. So, technology has really moved on, it has made making records a lot cheaper, but there is a double-edged sword with a lot of technology, in that you can have too much. You can have too much choice and sometimes you don’t make the right decision, so you have to use it well. But I would say that they are two massive changes, and obviously it is more about performing live now, and less about sales. Sales now are so much smaller than they used to be, especially with the onset of steaming platforms and everything like that.

Streaming platforms, are they a help or hindrance?

I personally feel that financially they are not great; the royalty rates paid to artists really are awful. However, as far as getting your music out there to be heard, I don’t have a problem with that. I would rather people hear my music than not hear it. I hope that the royalty payments will improve; it is pretty criminal what the artist gets. That really is something that needs to change at some point, but without being negative, kids today don’t listen to the radio, they much rather prefer streams and if they discover Feeder though that, then I feel that it is a positive thing.

In 2014 you released your debut solo album, Yorktown Heights. Do you have any thoughts as to a new solo studio album?

As you rightly point out I released Yorktown Heights back in 2014 together with a mini album called Black Cloud. I have to say that I really did enjoy writing and recording those; it really was good for me to do it. The whole experience made me use my voice a little more. I don’t know if confidence is the right word to use, but I got used to hearing my own voice a bit more in the mix. That was a good thing for Feeder because I have always tried to bury my voice in the past (laughter). I thought, ‘look, I’m the singer in the band so it’s no use trying to hide it’ (laughter). Overall, it was a good thing for me, it was good for my writing, and it opened up just how I worked with Feeder afterwards.

So, in answer to your question, I would do it, and I am up for doing it. It is something that I can do when I’m a little older, it is a bit more acoustic based, and I could even do it on my own if I needed to or I could do it with the band as well. I would do it, but Feeder is my main priority, and it always will be. Writing for a solo album and writing for Feeder requires a totally different headspace. It is less about the big wall of guitars and the heavy drums; it is more about stripping it back more. That is how Feeder songs do start out; it is just that they get heavier as we get the vibe going (laughter). The solo thing is just a totally different approach; it’s just more about keeping it a bit more laid back, it is a bit more about the song.

I would do it, and I am getting asked to do it a lot, and I am really proud about that album. I actually think that it is one of the best things that I have ever done. However, after I had written it and heard it during playback I thought, ‘I may as well keep this and put it out’ (laughter). On a personal level, the album only happened because I was writing for some acoustic artists. For me, at that time, it was just a bit of fun. It actually took off and I went all over Europe with it. I toured Japan, and it really did do pretty well. Who knows, I might even re-release it at some time (laughter).

Why not put two extra tracks on the album and release it at Christmas like Michael Bublé (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) well there you go, why didn’t I think of that (laughter). The main album had fourteen tracks on it; there was a lot of stuff on it. I really liked that record; it reminds me of my kids when they were growing up. It is a real family album; I wrote it when my kids were growing up. I think that’s why people connect with it. It still has a band vibe in places. The song that you mentioned earlier, Desperate Hour, I was going to save that for another solo album, but Feeder still put songs like that on a record so I decided that we should use it on the latest album. So, yes, I might record another solo album one day, but it would have to fit around Feeder.

On that note Grant let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been great as usual.

Thanks a lot Kevin. You take care and I will see you at Rock City.