Infadels - Masters Of The Universe
Monday, 14 July 2008
They were the original new ravers, out way before the Klaxons ventured into post-modern mythmaking. Now the UK’s Infadels have resurfaced with Universe in Reverse and they’re back from the brink, having been ripped off in true rock n roll style. Infadels’ ebullient frontman Bnann Watts is far from daunted by the prospect of endless interviews for their latest album.
“It’s one of these things where, as a musician nowadays, you never know if it’s gonna happen again – and you’re always over the moon if it does,” he trumpets. The London band – comprising Watts, Matthew Gooderson (guitar), Wag Marshall-Page (bass), Richie Vernon (keys) and Alex Bruford (drums) – was conceived five years ago. Infadels disseminated their first single, Leave Your Body, through their own indie. To their surprise, it was championed by the late John Peel. After releasing another record, and being recognised at the 2004 Diesel-U-Music Awards, Infadels signed to the traditionally dance Wall Of Sound.
Watts recalls meeting their future label boss, Mark Jones, at a gig. Fired-up, Jones was elaborating his plans for the group prior to introducing himself. “I said, ‘Who the fuck are you-’” Jones obligingly informed the upstart, leaving him redfaced – and fearful that he’d botched the band’s chances of a deal. At the beginning of 2006 the cheeky Infadels debuted with We Are Not The Infadels, produced by Andrew Weatherall’s pal Jagz Kooner. NME touted the LP as “acid rave for Generation Franz.” Infadels toured solidly, clocking up over 300 gigs and visiting Australia twice. Nevertheless, they were in for a nasty shock on returning to the UK. They discovered that someone in the team had “disappeared” with their earnings. Following 18 months of gigging, the band “from the school of the hard knocks” had “nothing”. The five were skint – they couldn’t afford their rent, let alone a drink. It was dismaying, too, to realise that, despite that on-the-road bonding, a mate had betrayed them. Infadels were determined not to mooch but instead cut a killer second LP.
“The only thing that we could do was just basically make music – and that was our therapy. This album was our therapy,” Watts says. “It was our triumph over adversity. It was us saying, ‘OK, we’re in real trouble, and we don’t know what’s gonna happen, but what we’re gonna do is make the best music we can’.”
For Universe, Infadels united with the legendary Youth, who replaced “sixth Infadel” Jagz. Ironically, among Jones’ predictions when he latched onto Watts that fateful night was that, on a future album, Infadels would go ‘acoustic’ – and liaise with Youth. “Three years later, he’s right,” the chatty Bnann says. “Youth was really wanting to do it – and he had the demos. We were like, ‘This is really weird...’” Aside from playing bass with the punk Killing Joke, Youth has produced ‘cool’ acts such as The Verve. Still, some Infadels had reservations, Bnann reveals.
“The other boys were a bit like, ‘What’s it gonna be like – how’s that gonna work- We haven’t even met him’. [But after we met him] we just thought, ‘Yeah, this guy’s amazing’.
“We met a few other producers, but Youth was far and away the one who we just clicked with. We thought, ‘We’re gonna do something really good with this guy’.” Youth completed some of his finest studio work with the underrated ’80s girl group Bananarama (check 1991’s acid house album Pop Life). Watts, unconvinced, admits to not having heard it.
“This is what worried some of the guys, ’cause they looked at [Youth’s] discography. There’s some really good stuff – and, of course, he’s [been] in Killing Joke – and then there’s some really weird stuff where you’re like, ‘Oh God!’ So some of the boys at first were like, ‘Hang on – he’s produced what-’ He produced Embrace, he produced Bananarama... It’s like, ‘Yeah, but he’s also done The Verve and all this other great shit.’”
Their hiring Youth paid off. Watts enthuses about the vet’s approach. He encouraged Infadels to tackle new things – with the understanding that the band could ditch anything that didn’t appeal. Youth is, Watts says, “a mystical guy,” who’d offer eccentric prompts on the mic. He was fascinated with the Hells Angels, based close to their studio. However, though Youth was never effusive about a track, he’d let Infadels know if they weren’t up to scratch.
“We were a bit scared at first, ’cause we thought, ‘God, this could tear our world upside down’, [and] he kind of did – he put us through the mill,” Bnann relates. “But I think that’s the thing about a good producer – they have enough charisma and enough [of a] track record and they get enough [good] results with you that you start trusting them and to try things out. You have the final say, to a certain extent, so it’s cool.”
At any rate, Universe, with the lead single Make Mistakes, is rockier than its predecessor as Infadels stomp the ‘nu rave’ tag into the ground. Infadels feel that industry figures have misconceptions of them. And, for this reason, they nearly didn’t hook up with Youth. “A lot of people warned him not to work with us,” Watts laughs. Indeed, Infadels are seen as “the grandfathers of nu rave.”
That perception actually has merit, yet Watts holds that Infadels have successfully avoided being linked to any scene – or embroiled in hype. “Thankfully, we skipped that whole nu rave thing,” he asserts. “In fact, since the start of the band, we’ve skipped electroclash, disco-punk, punk-funk, nu rave, nu grave – we’ve skipped them all.” If Universe is more guitar-driven, it’s an instinctive rebellion. “We’re Infadels,” Bnann quips. “We’re creators of the new, destroyers of the old. We don’t follow the rules. We’re not followers – we’re leaders.”
Infadels haven’t repudiated dance music entirely however. Matt continues to DJ with Rich. And, for Universe’s second single, Free Things For Poor People, they recruited the hot Alex Metric to remix. Watts maintains that, in spite of their fun image, Infadels are ambitious. “We’re tryers,” he says.
It’s not entirely accurate that Infadels formed on a whim with the intention of quitting after Leave Your Body. But what would Bnann be doing now if not Infadels- “I think that if I wasn’t in this band, I’d be trying to get in this band,” he announces. “I’d be saying, ‘Please let me be the singer – please let me write the songs.’”
It’s a case of ‘be an Infadel or die trying.’ Infadels may have been burnt by that unscrupulous business player, but they’re venting themselves through their music. “We could be sitting there with nothing and no album – so to be sitting here with nothing and an album is exciting.” Touchingly, and symbolically, to launch their LP, Infadels recently hosted a ‘Free Things Day’ in London, literally doling out (their label’s-) money to fans. Meanwhile, the band are plotting an Australian trek. Just don’t ask Watts for the details. “Obviously I’m the singer in the band, so I know nothing about anything!” he teases.
WHAT: Universe in Reverse through PIAS/Wall of Sound/Liberator
WHEN: Out now