|Jamie Delerict - JD & the FDCs - Uber Rock Interview Exclusive|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Sunday, 14 June 2015 03:00|
"Hang on just one moment - I haven't done an interview with Uber Rock for five years. FIVE YEARS! That's five long Winters, my friend." That's how Jamie Delerict reacted when I suggested we run an exclusive interview on Uber Rock in the run-up to the release of the long-awaited second album from JD & the FDCs, 'Anatomy Of A Wolf'. "I thought that you fellas were supposed to support underground rock and roll?" the wrong 'un asked.
Had it really been that long? In those five years JD & the FDCs released a debut album, 'Recognise', so universally adored by the clued-in mofos at URHQ that it won Uber Rock's Album of the Year award in 2012, and was one of the first outfits asked to play at last year's Uberpalooza event, the FDCs turning in a typically badass performance on the night.
The FDCs are a different proposition in 2015, though. This new album, as impressive as it is, is a wholly different beast to the celebrated debut, and we're not just talking about the shift from honey badger to wolf. The band line-up has changed, but so has the tone, the attitude. I knew that, unlike most interviewees, Jamie Delerict would not flinch from the more difficult questions aimed in his direction as I tried to get beneath the surface of this new record and its backstory.....
Yeah, Dazmondo leaving... No real reason, no drama and no interesting story, I'm afraid. He just quit last September and none of us have seen him since! He's a self-confessed oddball who lives in his own world, but surprisingly his departure very quickly turned into a positive thing and became the kick up the arse we didn't even know that we needed. Daz brought a really unique element to the FDCs with his virtuoso style of guitar playing, but Julio is very much more on our musical wavelength. He's kind of like a Spanish Matt Skiba. So while Daz brought the Van Halen, Julio brings the Rancid. I own zero Van Halen albums, but I have every single Rancid LP. So this is definitely the punkest sounding we've ever been now, which is great because that was always the intention from the start. Daz is a skilled graphic designer and I recommend hitting him up for album covers, shirt designs and whatnot. He assisted in the insert layout for our new record, so there's no beef. It's great being an adult, isn't it? No drama!
Just to confuse things, drummer Danny Gunn left the band last year, was replaced by "The Kid" but then rejoined - again, just what happened?
Ha! You don't miss a trick, do you? Yeah, that was a weird few months. I won't speak for everyone else, but right after the Misfits tour last Summer, things were a mess. In particular, I was a fucking mess. The shows were great, but individually, the band was in disarray. I'm the captain of the ship. And when the skipper went down, there was no fucker else to steer the ship. So I think that some of the crew panicked. Is that enough nautical/piratey references for you?!
So Danny quit, but agreed to stay on until we could find a replacement. We found a young lad called “The Kid” who was super talented, but as his name suggests, was very young. He played about four gigs with us, but then quickly realised that he had some massive shoes to fill and that he'd probably bitten off more than he could chew. Dan happened to be already regretting his decision to leave and was missing drumming, so he came back and reclaimed his throne. I make it all sound pretty smooth, but this all happened only a matter of days before we were booked in the studio for a couple of weeks. It was pretty stressful.
The new album is about to be released and, before we get deep into the content, I have to ask about the reception afforded the single, 'Black Hearts', and the accompanying music video - I know you were curious as to how fans would react to the shift in sound.....
I've been releasing records for over twenty years now. And even as a teenager, I've never wanted to make the same album twice. It just doesn't interest me. So as hugely proud as I am of 'Recognise', I didn't want to repeat it. I'm not 100% sure that we were in danger of doing that or not with Daz, but with the addition of Julio on lead guitar it absolutely guaranteed us an overall different sound. With Julio, the new songs took shape exactly as I had envisaged they would when I wrote them on my acoustic guitar. Being in a band is a constant evolution, but the vibe we have right now is most definitely the sound that Joey Strange and I discussed when we talked about putting the FDCs together in 2010.
I was the singer in a punk rock band called Panic for ten years and if I was a better songwriter back then, 'Black Hearts' would have been perfect for us. That song is a definite return to my original roots. Three chord punk rock and roll music will always be where my heart is. It moves me. 'Black Hearts' is simple and raw and honest. In fact, it's so basic, that I wrote the whole thing in my head as I was a thousand miles from home and had no access to a guitar. The feedback on the song and video I've gotten so far has been tremendous. Admittedly, it didn't quite catch fire immediately like our last single and video, 'From The Shadows', did, but my peers like it and our fans and friends dig it and that's all that matters to me. How the album as a whole will be received will be most interesting to follow, though. We may well lose some fans, but hopefully gain a whole bunch too.
With the difference in sound in mind, was it a conscious decision to open the album with 'This Ship Is Going Down' and 'Switchblade Knife', to offer some continuity from the last record?
Oh, absolutely. Those two songs are the oldest ones of the batch and most definitely bridge the gap between our debut album and this new one. After tracks one and two, though, all bets are off! You're either going to love the musical twists and turns that follow or wonder what the hell we think we're playing at.....
The FDCs sound has always been synonymous with terrace-chant backing vocals and shit-eating grins - the Slade thumb t-shirt design a pretty nailed on representation of the band: the new album contains much more angsty, US punk sounding tracks, with a previously untapped melancholia prevalent throughout; was this a natural or enforced progression?
100% natural. To paraphrase the batshit crazy Metallica on one of the greatest films ever made, 'Some Kind Of Monster': Our lifestyle determined our deathstyle. Art definitely started imitating life. You see, before we headed out on tour last Summer, we had another album title in mind and a completely different front cover had been designed and I personally had a very good idea of where we were headed both musically and vibewise. Then like dominoes, one by one things started falling apart for me very quickly.
Would it be fair to say that you have stared into the abyss between the release of 'Recognise' and the new album and that the tone is a direct result of this?
That would be a fair assumption, yes. It's not an exaggeration for me to say that it's a miracle that this album was even made. As a lot of people familiar with the FDCs know, I'm a recovering alcoholic. Much like many other forms of physical and mental illnesses, it's a disease that has to be treated on a daily basis. Addiction is an extremely complex subject, but I can safely say that I had one of my biggest battles with it in 2014. Thankfully, though, I managed to recognise (see what I did there?) what was happening before things span completely out of control and got myself back to rehab in September. I have the best (seriously, THE BEST) support network in place now and through months and months of hard work, things are beginning to improve gradually.
Many aspects of my personal life changed so drastically, I just didn't have the tools to deal with everything at once. It required a complete rebuild from the ground up and that's still a work in progress. As indeed am I! In this band between albums, there have been births and many deaths, marriages and break-ups, huge life changes and all of the other peaks and valleys that one would come to expect over the course of three years being a human being on planet earth. It was a lot of bad shit over a short period of time and there were absolutely several discussions about just calling it a day with the FDCs. I'm not trying to start a pity party here, I know we all go through tough periods in life and it's all about how you pick yourself up and deal with it. But the truth is, that this period of MY life will forever be anchored as my darkest so far.
I did however manage to channel some of my heartbreak, anger and frustrations into songwriting and, strangely, the band member switches really seemed to start fueling our fire again in a positive way. So, the mixture of relentless life changes and struggles, mixed with Julio's guitar style and combined with a darker influence on my songwriting certainly did change the tone of this album at a crucial point. 'Recognise' was more “Hey! Yeah! We’re the FDCs! It’s awesome being in a band and we’re here to play some fucking rock and roll music and party! Woooooooo!” while 'Anatomy Of A Wolf' is more “Hey. We’re fucked. And we have no idea how we’ve survived. But we have. You won’t break us. So fuck you and bring it the fuck on.” I mean just compare the two album covers. There's a reason that we've gone from glorious technicolour to lo-fi black and white!
You're the JD of the band name, obviously, and handled production duties on an album released on Delerict Records - would you say that this is a very personal album?
I'd always assumed that every song that I'd ever written was personal. But this collection of songs more than any other is definitely the real me. There's very little cockiness, arrogance or swagger on this record. Even of the tongue-in-cheek variety. Unfortunately for me, I'm a complex motherfucker and a curious creature by nature. So I'm always either trying to figure myself, or someone else out. My brain doesn't have an “off” switch. So I'd say that lyrically, this album leaves a lot less to the imagination for the listener. Put it this way, I still get asked what 'Burn This City Down' is about. And 'Mirrors & Wires' seems to mean different things to different people. But on this album, I think that it's clear as day that on 'This Ship Is Going Down' and 'Switchblade Knife' I'm on the verge of leaving a toxic relationship, and that on 'Black Hearts' I've just had been dealt a sledgehammer blow and had my heart broken for the very first time. There's no hidden messages. I'm not trying to be overly clever and I edited myself a whole lot less on this album. There were moments that I thought some lyrics might have come across as lame or cheesey. Or made me sound weak and vulnerable. But then I realised, “No, this is actually how I feel right now!” There's no filter, you know?
There's certainly a severe difference in the number of guest star appearances from 'Recognise' to 'Anatomy Of A Wolf'.....
Oh, totally. This was a deliberate decision we made about two years ago, though. If anything, I've actually accumulated even more super-spectacular talented friends over the past couple of years that could probably have added some “big name value” to the record. But much like the artwork and how we approached the recording process, we kept with the “less is more” motto. I mean, I love huge sounding records. Take Against Me! for example: I love the massive (and no doubt very expensive) Butch Vig production on 'White Crosses'. But I also understand how the deeply personal nature of the songwriting on their follow up record, 'Transgender Dysphoria Blues' probably dictated the vibe and sound of that album. It's dirty, raw, abrasive and gritty. There's a very similar parallel to our two LPs. Except that they're more successful and talented than us, of course.
I love collaborations, though. I'm sure there'll be lots more in the future.
Of those guests, one appears on a couple of songs, writing and co-writing one each and lending backing vocals to the tracks - how did your working relationship with Spunk Volcano come about?
Both myself and The FDCs had crossed paths with Dirt Box Disco many times on the toilet circuit and with each brief chat that we had, Russ, sorry I mean Spunk Volcano, and I discovered that we had more and more in common. As many people have come to realise, the man is an absolute machine when it comes to songwriting. His consistently high level of output is downright scary to me. I mentioned to him that I was going through a bit of writer's block, so he invited me over to jam with him and his brother Maff from DBD on drums. I brought my bass player Joey Strange with me, so we had a full band. To my surprise, within the space of 48 hours, Spunk already had two songs written and pretty much ready to go. So from scratch, we all played through both songs twice, adding our own little twists musically and then recorded a live demo of the third version. We were done in about an hour. It was magic! Once the FDCs started rehearsing the songs, we changed around a few bits and I wrote some more, shall we say, "appropriate" lyrics for 'The Devil', but those original demos are blinding. We've talked about doing a JD SV DBD FDC record when we're all slightly less busy, so you never know. There might well be more where that came from.....
There's also a rapper on 'It's All A Work, Brother', YouthOracle....
Yes! A hip-hop collaboration was something that I'd wanted to do for over 20 years. I actually got into rap in the late '80s, just before I discovered punk rock so it's always been close to my heart. I'd always been met with resistance from at least one member in other bands I've been in before when it came to getting a rapper involved with a song, so I never got my own way. The FDCs are a lot more open-minded though, so as soon as I realised that the third verse in 'It's All A Work, Brother”' was crying out for a rapper, I set off on my hunt. My first thought was Itch from The King Blues. We'd crossed paths several times back in the day when our punk bands played together, but then last year his solo career suddenly took off in Australia, so I decided to set my sights on Scorzayzee. He's a really respected UK rapper probably best known for the Shane Meadows film, 'Le Donk & Scorzayzee'. We had mutual friends and talked at length about a collaboration, but sadly his manager put the kibosh on it. Scorz was pretty gutted about that. But we both agreed that the perfect replacement for him would be YouthOracle. He was hot off a tour with Redman and already a bit of a Nottingham legend in the hip-hop scene. The lad is ridiculously talented and it was awesome watching him work his magic. So, yeah, tick another box off on my musical bucket list! His part is my favourite bit of the new album. True story.
Forget about on the album, there's a guest all over the album - tell us how Johnny Bonnel of the Swingin' Utters came to do the album's cover art, and what he brought to the complete package.
Johnny and I go back a long time. In 1997 he let a young, drunk, punk guy swigging cheap wine from a 2 litre lemonade bottle onto his tour bus and asked him to help write the Utters' setlist for the evening. That drunk kid was me and I've never forgotten his kindness. We always hung out as much as possible over the last 18 years when they've toured the UK and he is honestly just the most incredible human being. He's the man I aspire to be. So when we wrote a song together ('This Town Of Infamy') for the first FDCs album, it really was the ultimate for me. It doesn't get any better in my world. You can keep all of your hit singles and your gold records, that song and that experience mean the world to me and I'll take it to my grave as one of my greatest musical achievements. Anyway, Johnny is also a gifted artist, so I asked him if he could spare the time to draw me a wolf in the style of the Swingin' Utters' 'Brazen Head' EP cover. That was the only art direction I gave him. The result was perfect. It's just fucking beautiful, man! It was purely by chance that the art matched the vibe of the album. The planets all aligned....
You've been banging on for ages, and to anyone who would listen, about your love for Vancouver indie pop duo, Tegan & Sara - your decision to cover one of their songs for the album was a no-brainer, right?
Yeah, I do bang on about them a bit, don't I? Sorry. Actually, I'm not sorry at all. You know, contrary to several opinions, I am actually a good team player. I don't rule this band with an iron fist or anything. It IS a democracy and I always make sure that I choose my battles carefully. But in this case, I do believe that I just plain told the band that we were going to put 'Northshore' on the album and nobody argued with me. Since the release of our debut album, I have admittedly become obsessed with Tegan & Sara and there is no other artist that has influenced the songwriting on our new record more than those two lovely ladies. I can think of at least half a dozen lyrical or musical “tips of the hat” to T&S on this album. Not even subtle ones either! Their 'Heartthrob' album is absolute perfection and in my mind, it will forever be anchored to our new LP because that was the soundtrack to not only my soaring highs, but also to my crushing lows. I remember that I definitely went at least six whole months of listening to NOTHING but the 'Heartthrob' album when it first came out. I'm not joking. Ask Joey Strange. I showed him my iPod stats at the time.
There's another cover version offered as a CD-only bonus track, the FDCs take on the Ramones' 'Strength To Endure' - why this song, and is its positioning at the end of the album a message of steely resolve, lyrically at least?
You got it, yeah. The song 'Anatomy Of A Wolf' ends the actual album and by design is there to say “yeah, all this bad shit has happened. But guess what? I’m a fucking wolf. I’m a survivor. I’m going to make it through”. 'Strength To Endure' has the same sentiment and has always been one of my favourite Ramones tracks. It's got a lot of meaning for myself and my family and also to a couple of the guys in the band. It really encapsulates what our album is about in one song. It's about survival.
I have to be honest, I've listened to the new album constantly since you sent it to me, being blown away by many things - the album's diversity, the shift in direction, the tone - but there is one song that I keep going back to: 'Fire Door'. What's the story behind it?
That's really cool to hear as it's probably my favourite song I've written so far. The story? Well, I've been living in a certain area of the UK for almost 8 years now. And I very much dislike it. My friends, my band and my family are all a long way away and, unfortunately, my circumstances dictate that I have to stay here. I love my apartment, but this region has not once felt like “home” to me. That can be very isolating and at times, quite lonely. When I wrote 'Fire Door' I'd just started seeing someone new after a long relationship had ended and the transition was all very messy and confusing for everyone involved. I knew I had responsibilities, but a huge part of me wanted to run far, far away as that was what I had always been accustomed to doing. (There's the alcoholic brain coming into play again!) But for the first time in my life, I genuinely couldn't do exactly what I wanted to do. My life was tumultuous and full of drama, both with regards to my ex and also my new girl and I just desperately wanted to escape. Both out of my apartment and out of my head. It took me a long time to find a healthy balance. And then when I finally figured it all out, everything fucking changed again. Oh life! The line “Fake it ‘til you work it out” was a mantra of mine for quite a while.
I can't let you go without explaining the album title, and the whole "Wolfpac" theme…
I guess 'Anatomy Of A Wolf' is about breaking things down and finding the tools you need to get through the bad times and most importantly, to survive and live to fight another day. I actually wrote the AOAW song over 15 years ago for Panic, and for some reason it never made the cut for the 'Get Well' album. (You can hear the original recording on the bonus disc of the “Wolfpac Box-Set”!) The lyrics still resonated with me 100% after all that time, it fit the vibe perfectly and the other FDCs loved the song. We had the honey badger as our spirit animal and on our artwork for a few years there and he embodied our never-say-die attitude and tenacity for that time period perfectly. But then the REAL hard times came. And in those times, you get to find out who your real friends are. So now the wolf represents us and our way of thinking. The lone wolf will very probably survive, but he will THRIVE with his wolfpac! Seriously, though, like all great bands should be, we're a gang too. And we have in-jokes and silly shit that we like to do at band practice or at 4am in the van travelling through the night from Wakefield to Quimtillery. Five years ago, we were all about the honey badger and fist bumps, then came the YES! movement and the “Slade Thumbs” and now we are in the era of the wolf. So we have the Wolfpac hand sign (stolen from the NWO), and now everyone reading this thinks that we're a bunch of dicks, right?! Good. They'd be right. We like gimmicks. We like a bit of schtick. It's not always all dark and gothic being an FDC in 2015, you know. It keeps us amused anyway.
And you've followed up the awesome "Badger Box" version of 'Recognise' with the "Wolfpac" edition of the new album…
Well, with the interest in actually owning a physical copy of an album continuing to dwindle in some quarters, I still like to put a bit of effort into trying to create a “must have” version. The Badger Box was a huge success last time, so as much as it's a long and painful process actually putting these damn things together by hand, it's also really rewarding hearing how much our die-hard fans love them. Last time, a live CD and an arm-band where the main draws, and this time in the Wolfpac Box we have a demos/acoustic/covers CD, an embroidered patch, silicon bracelet, setlist/lyrics and my personal favourite: Four Panini football sticker style trading cards. As a music fan, I'd love it if more of my favourite bands did stuff like this.
You'll be touring in support of the new album by playing several shows with the Misfits this Summer - how great will that be, and what can fans expect, show-wise, after that tour?
As most people know by now, I have a long and storied history with the Misfits. Last year, I felt like the FDCs needed a bit of a shot in the arm so I asked a favour of Jerry Only for the first ever time and he very kindly had us added to their UK tour. This time around, he invited us and I certainly wasn't going to say no. In all honesty, I'm quite relieved and grateful that we have some big shows to do because promoting this album, letting people know that it's out there and actually shifting a few copies is hard work when you're at our level and going it alone. Riding a more popular band's coattails and having the opportunity to win over their fans night after night is exactly what we need to be doing right now. Hopefully, we can play some more big support slots afterwards, but if not we'll still be doing plenty of our own gigs too of course and are always open to sensible offers. Silly offers are gleefully shot down.
Finally, have you just made the album that you always wanted to make?
If I hadn't been honest enough with you already Gaz, I think that I'm going to surprise you here. And thankfully, I have no record label boss or manager to reprimand me after I make this career-ending statement: I actually think that 'Recognise' was the album that I'd always wanted to make. All of the guest stars, the collaborations, the big time production, the mastering by Howie Weinberg.... That album really felt like the culmination of a life dedicated to making music and being a performer. Three years on and I wouldn't change a thing about it. And I've never been able to say that about any other record I've made.
I think that if we'd recorded 'Anatomy Of A Wolf' with Butch Vig, Rick Rubin or Kato Khandwala then I might have been able to say “yes” to this question. Financially speaking, and production-wise, we simply couldn't top 'Recognise' this time around. Artistically speaking, well only time will tell because I've been living and breathing this album for seven months now, so I'm way too close to view it non-judgmentally.
The actual recording process was really smooth, and as a band we nailed all our shit, but the mixing process, the mastering, the manufacturing and all of the other necessary evils that needed micro-managing were too drawn out for my liking, leading to a bit of frustration my end. I know listeners don't care about such trivial things, though, so I digress...
Don't get me wrong, I think that overall the songs are stronger than those on our debut album. My songwriting and my vocals are better on this record for sure. I love 'Anatomy Of A Wolf', I'm fucking proud of it and I'm very happy with where we're at as a group right now. But I also think that we can better it. We're a band revitalised and we're definitely moving forward, learning, improving and evolving. And isn't that the whole point of life?!
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