Interview: Funeral For a Friend – Matt Davies

With their new album just out now, we met with Funeral For A Friends Matt Davies a few days ago pre-show in Birmingham..

Hey Matt! So we’re gonna start off with random blarb Q’s then move on to the Speed Round! Ok?

No band name stuff, it’s been 14 years we should be well and truly past that by now.

No, no questions about the band name however you have just touched on the first question. You’ve been going for..

A long time!

What is your secret to longevity as a band?

Don’t make the same record twice, rotate your line-up- have different people come in and find a comfortable place where you can create music where you don’t have to think of anything other than music that pleases yourself. That’s it really, be selfish!

That kind of brings up something that we were going to come onto later, the new record comes out on 19th Jan. How do you gauge the popularity of a record, or do you even care any more?

No!

Is it a case of you are making in for yourselves?

We’ve never thought about our audience when we make a record, to do that is a compromise that any band should be willing to take. Especially in this kind of scene of music, and I don’t think it’s the right move. If you do music to express yourself artistically it’s all about pulling stuff from inside you out, and being able to kind of have a cathartic experience producing that music. Like where, if you are making an album for the benefit of your audience then you are already making a compromise towards something else. Some bands do that, and want to be in bands because of that and some bands want to be in bands because of the art of making music and that’s what they have to do. So for us it has always been about that.

You’ve been through a couple of line-up changes over the years, how does that effect the dynamic? Does it keep you fresh?

It does! I think the line-up we have, having Gavin and Rich in the band with myself and Kris is the best we’ve ever worked as a band. In a round about way our musical tastes and our musical direction, and the way we talk about what we want musically is much easier to deal with especially when your all pulling in the same direction. The thing is we never had the luxury in our band before we got successful of growing up with each other or figuring out what each other wanted when it came to making music, so it became obvious in hindsight now looking back at it, that people wanted different things out of the band. Which obviously lead to people leaving and conflict, and now we’ve ended up having a line-up where people are intent on creating something they want to invest themselves in, rather than looking at making money or playing to a billion people or fame or fortune or anything like that because we as a band starting out (at least for me and Kris) that’s what we were aiming for.

This is the seventh of your albums, do you look back at the albums, are they like journals or time capsules to you? How do you feel about the bands back catologue?

I mean, it is a time capsule. They are like diaries to me, it’s hard for them not to be, you know they’re relevant to a particular point in the bands history and our personal histories. I mean that’s why, when people are always referencing “why doesn’t this album sound like that album?” it’s like, not the point because you know, each one of those records was made at a specific moment, with particular influences- external and internal- that shaped what those records are, and to try and recreate that is just pointless.

When you’re playing the old stuff live?

No! I think they sound better than they did. Obviously we have kinda of levelled up with the musicianship of the members, no slight against the other guys, but Richard is ten times the Bass player that Gareth was and Gavin, him and Kris are more in the same league in terms of Guitar playing, Darren was way more of a reserved player. And just the kind of musicianship and approach to those songs now, you have to bring them- the feel of them, not the context of them- to where you are right now, and they’re still fun to play.

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Were the new guys FFAF fans?

I mean, we started out in bands at around the same time as those guys. We were always around, so there’s always been a mutual respect of each others catalogue etc. They were in a band called Hondo Maclean, Ryan was their drummer originally, so the scene back home was very much kind of like, supportive. So bringing new people into the band, we were always looking at people who we had respect for, people who could play and had a lot to bring to the table and what their musical influences were. And personality, and the fact that we were friends with them-we didn’t want to bring like random people in, because being in a band is very much about being a team, and trying to like, not have 3 people on the inside and one constantly on the outside, we wanted people that we would be comfortable with.

With this new album you have made the decision to tour before the album is released…

I mean we have been playing ‘1%’ a lot, since like April of last year, and you know, we don’t really think too much about it. Over the years we’ve come to the realisation that you can’t- for better or for worse- think of your audience to a degree, I think planning a setlist you need like ten percent old favourites, that people do wanna hear, and the rest of it you just go for it for yourself. Because you know, you have to play these songs, and we play them so often that we wanna kind of reinvent the setlist and do new things that are interesting for us as musicians, so it’s fun for us to play live, otherwise it’s just going through the motions isn’t it really.

We wanna challenge people, I mean just because you’ve bought a ticket to the show and we’ve been a band for fourteen years doesn’t mean you’re going to get a greatest hits set- we’ve got seven records, it’s all about challenging what people like, or haven’t quite heard of, or maybe they’ve not reached that particular record.. or a record perhaps that they were a little bit ignorant of at the time, I think now we just want to push the best songs, that we think work together for our audience and for ourselves.

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With regards to support acts, you guys over the years have introduced some bands that have exploded, like Marmozets and Cancer Bats etc. Do you have control over that aspect of touring?

Yes! Yes we do. Because I guess, you want to present a tour in a way that makes sense for us, and kind of relates to who we are as a band, and what we stand for as a band, and engage an audience with music with bands that we feel they may not be aware of that they should listen to. I mean that’s the fun of it, of being in a band- we listen to so much music, and you know we’re such big fans of music in general and there are so many bands out there that we really want our audience to pay attention to, it’s a great platform for us to share that.

That’s the answer I look for when I ask headliners about the support bands, often the label has the say and the bands get no control.

Yeh, we used to have that problem back in the day, but over the last few years we have adamantly chosen and personally approached the bands that we want to play with.

So.. In the early 00’s you supported Iron Maiden.. ?!

Yes. It was TERRIFYING! It’s something I never want to do again. Yeh arena’s didn’t give a fuck about us. It’s one of those things, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m not a Maiden fan. So for me it was a massive challenge, coming from the background that we came from, we’d literally just released our first full length album and started touring, and doing headline shows and things were already at the point where things were getting quite big for us, in comparison to what we were growing from, and then to get into that step, when everything was like fifteen-thousand people or whatever it was- arenas, full of people that just couldn’t give a shit, it was like they were doing their best to intimidate you, I was just like “ I don’t really wanna be here”.

The metal fan critics heralded “All they do is talk about dragons..!”

Ah yes, in Nottingham was it? Yeh….Basically we got so bored that decided to introduce every song about Orcs and Goblins- even though non of our songs are actually about that- yeh hah, at the time we were listening to a band called Three Inches of Blood before we started playing, and they’ve got like songs really about DOS and riding Tigers and crap. And we got to the point where we had already toured for a month with Maiden in Europe, and we were just kinda like, we’d resided ourselves to the fact that people weren’t even going to pay attention anyway, so we were like “Fuck it, lets just take the piss!” And we got told off by Maidens manager! For ridiculing the Maiden audience! We were like- seriously dude?! They’ve got mullets, wearing fucking denim and leather, and Reebok Hi-tops, I mean what is there not to ridicule!

I mean, they asked for our band to go out, and I thank them for that. It was really a great experience, but not being a fan it was something that I’m glad we did, but I would never want to do again.

What did you think to playing arenas generally?

I didn’t like it. I’ve never seen us as that sort of band and I never will. I mean I grew up on the hardcore scene. I like being close to people and I think arenas are so far removed from that ideology or what hardcore is for me that it makes me very uncomfortable. I get quite introverted.

You do seem to play quite a variety of venues.

We try to play like out of the way places, different little places, as much as we can, because it’s fun for us-we don’t want to play the same places all the time. I mean we want people who don’t always get a chance to come see us to come and check us out.

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Speed round

What would you like to be remembered for personally?

Being a nice person.

How long do you spend in front of the mirror?

Two seconds!

Favourite swear word?

Fuck!

Worst thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?

Probably a Mushroom.

Who would you like to hear cover one of your songs, and which song?

The Black Eyes Pea’s cover ‘The Art of American Football’.

Super-power?

Erm.. to not get sick! Because nothing is worse than being sick!

What would you name your autobiography?

“How the fuck did I end up this way?”

If you could only ever play one venue for the rest of your career, what venue?

Woo.. The Nova Theatre in Virginia USA, it’s got a basketball court upstairs! And a hot tub!

What would your porn star name be?

Erm it would be.. Denzel Jones.

One album for the rest of your life, which would it be?

‘After The Eulogy’ by Boy Sets Fire.

What was your first car?

A Vauxhall Cavalier hatchback!

What song never fails to make you happy?

Erm… Oh shit. Erm. There are way to many. Way too many. ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues.

Funeral For a Friend are one of my favourite bands of all time. The show as always did not disappoint, and if you haven’t done so already you should check out their new album ‘Chapter and Verse’ ASAP.

As expected Matt was a lovely bloke, and now I shall continue on with my FFAF obsession..