Failure: The Comeback Kings
From breaking up to making up, the LA trio return with their first album in 17 years
In 1996, Failure released their third album, 'Fantastic Planet'. It should have been a time for celebration, but it punctuated the end of a gruelling 18-month period which saw their label sit on the album as they tried to sell themselves to a major.
“It was beyond frustrating,” says Ken Andrews. “Greg [Edwards] went off the deep end with drugs and I was just beside myself with frustration and depression. That part of the band’s history was a nightmare, really.”
The band – who’d expanded to a quartet with the addition of Troy Van Leeuwen, later joining Queens Of The Stone Age – bagged themselves a spot on the Lollapalooza tour the following year. But by the end of November 1997, personal differences had taken their toll and the band called it a day.
Perhaps the root of the problem was that Failure were ahead of their time. Their multi-textured spacey rock earned a cult fanbase but never reached the heights they perhaps deserved. Before their reunion in 2014, their fanbase has swelled considerably with bands like Tool, Paramore and Cave In name checking the band as influences.
Their fourth full-length album, The Heart Is A Monster, is out now. TeamRock joined Ken, Greg and drummer Kellii Scott in London to discuss their reunion and the dangers of damaging a legacy…
WHAT LED TO FAILURE'S REUNION?
Ken Andrews: "Basically, Greg and I becoming friends again. After the break up, there was at least four or five years where we didn’t see each other. We started different projects and then we slowly started seeing each other again, leading up to when both of us had our first kids, within six months of each other. There were play dates and this whole other side of our relationship grew. There was this kind of unsaid gravity pulling us. Friends and family weren’t really pushing us because they knew the sensitivity of the whole situation, but there was a recognition I think of the work we had done together."
Greg Edwards: “I had a feeling of obligation to at least try it again and see what we could do.”
BEFORE RELEASING 2004'S COMPILATION 'GOLDEN', DID ANY OF YOU REVISIT THE ALBUMS JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT?
Ken: “I didn’t for a while.”
Greg: “I remember listening to Saturday Savior for a sonic reference. I wanted to see what the frequency range was. I was amazed at the fidelity of it. I was amazed at the top end attack of the guitars and the warmth of it. The cool, warm darkness that was in there, and the fact that we recorded it on the original 16 bit ADATs, was incredible to me! That was the thing that blew me away the most.There was a 20 bit ADAT that went down, you know, years after Failure had broken up, and I took it in for repair. I opened up the top months later to clean it and whoever had repaired it had written a Failure lyric, on the inside of the components, inside that ADAT. It was from Frogs, I think [1994 album, Magnified]. Something like, 'Frogs are leaping off my brain stem’."
Ken: "Wow, I didn't know that."
WHERE THERE ANY OTHER WEIRD COINCIDENCES THAT POINTED TOWARDS GETTING BACK TOGETHER?
Ken: "The reboot had already sort of officially started and I think we were about four songs in to recording, and [Tool frontman] Maynard Keenan called me, and was like, ‘Hey would you consider reforming? I want to have a big birthday party, and I want my favourite bands to play a few songs at this show.’ I told him we'd reformed and he was like, ‘Oh great, so can I confirm you?’ [laughter]."
Greg: “There was never a time when Failure just disappeared off my radar; there was always something. We were kind of like revolving around this central planet of gravity that was bringing us back to eventually working together. It was just like, every little thing like that seemed to increase the gravitational pull."
DID FATHERHOOD STRIP EVERYTHING AWAY TO REVEAL WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT? ANY PETTINESS FROM THE INITIAL FALLING OUT?
Ken: "I think the break up was due to a lot of, you know, broken trust maybe? Our friendship deepened with the shared experience of fatherhood."
Greg: "I mean, certainly that puts things in perspective because, becoming a parent is anything but petty. It was easier to begin [the friendship] from there and not have all of the baggage from the past crowd it too much."
Ken: "When I think about it now, there was no earlier time it could have happened for us personally. It happened when it could have happened."
WHAT WERE THE FIRST STAGES OF THE REUNION, THEN?
Ken: "We wrote and recorded a few songs, because that was the test really. We didn’t want to come back and just do a nostalgia tour and then call it a day. We just weren’t interested in that, so if we were to come back, for us, we needed to know that the material was going to be substantial, viable and still the sound of Failure..."
Greg: "Not just like kind of a half-assed, thrown-in justification for a reunion, you know, but a fourth record that stood alongside the other three."
THAT'S PROBABLY THE WORST THING A BAND COULD DO TO THEIR LEGACY.
Greg: "Yeah, because we talked about that – let’s just not do it."
Ken: "I would rather re-master Fantastic Planet again and do like a big booklet or something of interesting quotes, than come out with a half-assed, nostalgia tour, you know. The other thing is, I think there’s somewhat of a feeling that the sound of this band is... maybe the time is now, you know, and it wasn’t then."