Richard Fearless’ Death In Vegas were one of the seminal bands of my youth. When Contino Sessions came out in 1999, its polychromatic tones were drawn outside the lines, mixing live instruments and electronic music in a way that wasn’t garish but fulfilling and world-building. It was a psychedelic pop record with nods to techno, rock’n’roll and krautrock.
I would go see the band live every time they were in Ireland. Its followup Scorpio Rising repeated the trick in 2002 with a similar vibe and subsequent albums Satan’s Circus, Trans-Love Energies and Transmission (buoyed by the project reducing to a solo one) dug deeper into Fearless’ techno and electronic roots.
Collaborations with the former porn star Sasha Grey featured heavily on the caustic and sometimes industrial 2016 release Transmission. Fearless had found a like-minded soul and their collaboration was fruitful. A new single ‘Honey’ with Sasha Grey on vocals was just released.
Ahead of this Friday’s live show in District 8, I had a chat with Richard about what he’s been up to, how he operates, his collaboration with Sasha and navigating the industry in 2018.
So, let’s talk about the shows that you’re doing. How are you approaching that, they’re kind of club shows so what consideration do you have in terms of presenting it?
It’s live electronic music concentrating on my personal selection of the Death In Vegas catalogue, which appeals to me a bit more in my career really, that’s kind of the main theme. So, this week, we’ve revisited old stuff from Satan’s Circus which is one of my favourite records.
So, is there like visuals you’re doing and you’re bringing analogue stuff obviously, you’re not DJing?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s pretty much bringing the studio out onto the stage.
And you’re solo on the stage?
It’ll be myself and Chris Blakey the engineer I’ve been worked been working with and have worked with on those records, who plays synths with me.
So as Death In Vegas, you’ve been operating solo for the last 10 years, how does that play into your music making? Does DJing influence it?
DJing for me is a big part of the inspiration. When I’m in studio I listen to purely electronic music and techno because that’s where I have all that music. I don’t have any inspiration from anything I’m hearing band-wise. I find I buy a lot of music for playing out. I’m into electronic music, techno and its various airy subgenres, as it’s a lot more exciting than anything else going on.
So, with that kind of idea where you’re doing some more visual stuff, does it affect the music you make then as well?
Yes, they both feed off each other very much.
Do you have somebody you bounce ideas off?
I mean I’m always working with an engineer, you know, so there are conversations but it’s always me sort of driving it really. It’s always been that way I think. It’s always been my band, I just worked with different people doing it.
And you do… you’re running your own label and publishing as well. I mean that’s kind of a bit of a change compared to how it was maybe 15, 20 years ago. Are there industry changes that are good for you in the last 15 years?
I wouldn’t see it as good. I think the changes have made it more difficult for someone like me and streaming and download has made it harder for musicians. But then, on another level, I work closely with my wife, who’s a label manager, and that means not having to report to a record company, or management. It’s freeing everything up and it’s enabled me to make records that I’ve made. They are more of purist projects from me.
Do you think there are benefits, creatively, to a label system or having a team in place?
One hundred percent, yeah. There’s times when I wish I had that but we’re fortunate enough to have Kompakt as our distributor for our label [Drone Records]. They’re based in Cologne and we’ve got teams of people you know we can tap into when we need help and we work really closely with our live agent, who is based in Germany. They’re part of the team, there’s a network.
We were doing some big shows with an artist and I can’t say who it is but if there’s a label to to give tour support – it makes it a lot easier. We had to remortgage our house to do Drone, so it’s a lot of pressure, when you’ve got children too, especially when you’re doing a completely uncommercial project. You’ve got to really believe in yourself to do that. You cannot doubt your decisions. You go for it.
So, on Transformation and then the only this stuff ‘Honey’, you’re working with Sasha Grey and I know you bonded over the kind of dark industrial or like Throbbing for example. She’s an interesting person because, obviously, she’s started in porn but has since created other strands of creative work. So, what makes it, for you guys working together, what makes the experience work for you?
I had been doing this musical pilot. I really, really enjoyed that experience working with actors and rehearsing with them. I was working with a band that I was producing around the same time. And I suppose that I was getting more personal and it made a difference to the final product.
I’ve worked with Liam Gallagher before [on Scorpio Rising] and you get Liam. You don’t get anything else – you get his voice, his style, character, but someone who was up for a bit of direction was a different experience.
I knew Sasha was fan of the band, that she worked with Throbbing Gristle, that she has acted in a Stephen Soderberg film. I thought that could be a perfect fit. I also knew she wrote. It was very important to me that whoever I work with, had to be singing their own words, because that was really important for them to bring something to the table.
And Sasha works really well at that. She’s really hard working, and… I felt like it was a bit of a risk, not being in the same country and just a lot of reasons why not to do it. She did the whole album – § there wasn’t one edit on the whole album. She did a fantastic job. I didn’t feel like it was a collaboration, I feel like she had to come from that record as part of the band.
So, building on that experience then for ‘Honey’, is there anything you approached together in that way? Did you discuss how you would do, creatively, approach that song?
We worked the same way as we did the other one. I had the music that I sent her in and then Sasha – she’s always written since she was a young child and keeps diaries. So, she had bits that she felt were reflective of the music and we took it from there. And I went out to Los Angeles and recorded her and we shot a video which we’re working on a moment together.
It’s really good collaborating with her. I think it’s really strong. It’s a nice ending to this chapter and it feels nice to have that really slow sultry kind of love song it was quite different to Transmission but it felt like a continuation of the work.