Powerhouse Welsh rock outfit Lostprophets took a break from touring over the past few years, but the band certainly wasn’t lying dormant. The brilliant musicians were writing and recording new music in preparation for the release of their fifth LP Weapons. Lostprophets- Ian Watkins (lead vocals), Lee Gaze (lead guitar), Mike Lewis (rhythm guitar), Stuart Richardson (bass), Jamie Oliver (synth/turntables/samples/backing vocals), and Luke Johnson (drums)- spent the summer performing on Warped Tour, then jumped directly into a headlining tour to promote the fabulous new album. I got the opportunity to sit down with Lewis and Richardson before they lit up The Roxy in Los Angeles. The charming musicians filled me in on the new record, how they craft songs, and how altitude affects them.
The gentlemen of Lostprophets have been through Denver on numerous occasions and enjoy it every time. “Every time we’ve played Denver it’s always been really good,” Lewis relays. “I think we played the Gothic Theater and the Bluebird Theater, we’ve played Denver a bunch of times. It’s always been cool, it’s a cool city.”
Both musicians admit that the altitude in the Mile High City can take its toll. “Definitely,” Lewis says. “We usually notice right when we get off the bus. We’ll walk about a half a mile to a coffee shop or restaurant and be like, ‘F****** hell, I’m totally knackered!’ We don’t really adjust to it either, there isn’t enough time.” “Maybe if we stayed there for longer we’d be better,” Richardson chimes in. “If we only toured Salt Lake and Denver I think we’d be fine,” Lewis suggests. “We’d be superhuman everywhere else,” Richardson points out. “It’s a good idea.”
The new Lostprophets album Weapons is a dazzling dose of intricate rock. “The goal for this record was not to have a goal,” Lewis explains. “For our previous two records we went in with an agenda. With Liberation Transmission we went in with the agenda of writing a poppier record and then with The Betrayed, our last record, we were aiming for a darker, heavier album. We felt we had covered all of our bases with our first four albums, so we just wanted to write a Lostprophets record without thinking about it. That’s basically what we did. We got into a room and started writing without thinking about what songs we wanted to write and just saw what naturally happened.” “You can put too much pressure on yourself sometimes, and we did, especially on the last two records,” Richardson reveals. “For The Betrayed it was like, ‘We can’t put this song on there, it’s not dark enough’, so we’d leave good songs behind. This time around was different. Lostprophets has always done different things and we wanted to embrace that again. This is probably one of our most cohesive rock albums from start to finish, and we didn’t plan that.”
Since the band followed such a natural songwriting process this time around, Lostprophets was able to push its musical limits. So are there any songs on the album that initially the band was unsure about releasing? “No not really,” Lewis says honestly. “There are certain parts maybe, but not a whole song. There are certain elements to songs, like on “Can’t Get Enough” there are big string parts which we were unsure about when we were doing it at the time. Even some of the electronic elements on “Bring ‘Em Down” we were unsure about whether to do that much of it, but then we just said, ‘Bollocks let’s just put it on.’” “We always push the borders and then someone in the band will completely hate it,” Richardson says chuckling. “Then we have to bring it back. “Bring ‘Em Down” had loads of electronic stuff and I was like, ‘No’. I like dance music, but not in Lostprophets, at least not that much. So I was pumping the brakes on it a little bit, I didn’t want that much in there.” “Even with the string parts on “Can’t Get Enough” there were more to begin with, then we toned it down,” Lewis continues. “Usually we throw in the kitchen sink and then take pieces out. We’d rather do it that way than not experiment. We want to try everything possible and then remove parts.”
My favorite song on Weapons is the second one, “We Bring An Arsenal” so I’m curious to know more about the origins of the track and how it has changed over time. “We actually wrote that song about five years ago,” Lewis informs me. “That was one of the songs that didn’t make it onto the last album because we didn’t think it was heavy enough and we never quite got it right at that point in time. So when it came to doing this record, we revisited a bunch of older ideas. We went back to that song and thought, ‘This song is great, we shouldn’t waste it’. We tweaked it and went back to it with fresh ears and a fresh producer. Sometimes when you’re unsure about a song it’s nice to have a producer say, ‘No that’s great’ or the opposite, ‘No that’s s***.’ It’s nice to have that objective view. That’s one of my favorite songs as well because it’s fun to play live.”
Lostprophets has a large catalog of songs to choose from when they hit the stage every night. I wonder what song is the most difficult to perform live. “"[Next Stop,] Atro City” is the most technically difficult,” Richardson shares. “Yeah that is technically difficult but nothing is really too crazy,” Lewis elaborates. “Ian tends to go nuts with vocals in the studio all the way through the song and not let up. Then when it comes to singing them live he realizes that he doesn’t have a break from the minute he starts singing until the end of the song.” “And we get to tell him, ‘I told you so’,” Richardson chimes in and we all laugh. “Ian wants every second of every song to be the catchiest thing you’ve ever heard. The problem with that is, if everything’s catchy then what’s catchy about that? That’s why the records take a long time.” “I don’t think that there’s anything which is, for me at least, overly difficult,” Lewis ponders. “That’s because you’re a shredder,” Richardson quips with a chuckle. “A lot of stuff is hard for me.” "Yeah, I think it’s because my parts are really basic,” Lewis says smiling.
2012 has been a whirlwind for Lostprophets and the band doesn’t plan on slowing down. “We’ve been basically going nonstop since February,” Lewis relays. “So we’re going to take a little bit of time off and do some writing in October. Then we do another UK tour in November- we’re doing the Warped Tour UK which should be really good- then we’re going to Russia and then I think that’s pretty much it for the rest of the year. Then we’re going to write some new music and see what happens next year. We’ve taken a bit of time off over the last five years, whether it’s been because we’ve been writing or recording. We’ve kind of come back now. This year has been great, especially doing the US Warped Tour, that really energized us. We’ve never done Warped Tour before, which is kind of weird really. Everybody was like, ‘You must be Warped Tour veterans!’ and we were like, ‘No we’ve never done it before’ so it was such an amazing experience for us. It got us fired up to write some new music and stay busy.”