Silver service: 25 years of Feeder
With Feeder celebrating their 25th birthday this year, Grant Nicholas marks his band’s silver anniversary with a look back at a career defined by solid-gold hits and tragic loss
Grant Nicholas remembers hanging around Camden during the height of Britpop. It was the mid-90s, and he and his band had bagged a deal a year or two earlier, just as the music industry descended en masse on N1. It was the era of Cool Britannia, and there was electricity in the air. But while the likes of Blur, Oasis and Elastica were being fêted by the mainstream music press, Feeder were on the outside with their faces pressed against the glass.
“We didn’t really fit in with all the trendy bands who were doing drugs in the toilets of The Good Mixer,” says Nicholas today of their cagoule- and Fred Perry-clad counterparts. “We were too – quote-unquote – ‘rock’. There were a few of us who knew each other and played together – us, Skunk Anansie, bands like that. We were outsiders.”
Nicholas has mixed feelings about how his band were perceived then and now. On the one hand, there’s a suspicion that Feeder having never been the cool kids still rankles. On the other, he’s justifiably proud of the band’s subsequent 20-year career, taking in nine Top 20 albums, thank you very much.
“I think we’ve proved ourselves to be a good band after all this time, don’t you?” he says with polite understatement, fixing Classic Rock with a dare-you-to-argue look. “Anyway, I stopped caring what other people thought years ago.”
On the first point, undeniably so. Nicholas himself is one of the great unsung British songwriters of recent years. His songs are carried aloft by the sort of melodic craftsmanship that can be described without embarrassment as ‘timeless’. Over the years, the Welshman has turned his hand to freewheeling alt.rock, billowing emotional anthems and, in the case of their biggest hit, Buck Rogers, solid gold pop.
We’re sitting in a shed-cum-home studio at the bottom of Nicholas’s North London garden. The walls are covered in Feeder memorabilia – gold and platinum discs and gig posters hang above various guitars, keyboards and mixing desks. Most poignant is an image of the cover of 2002’s Comfort In Sound, the album that helped lead the band out of the darkness following the suicide of original drummer Jon Lee.
Nicholas himself is an astonishingly well-preserved 49. He looks exactly the same as he did when Feeder released their debut mini-album, Swim, back in 1996. He’s a friendly, garrulous talker. “Oh, Grant can talk and talk,” says Taka Hirose, the band’s Japanese-born bassist. “When I first joined I couldn’t always understand what he was talking about.”