Recently I was lucky enough to have a chat with Luke Johnson, the drummer for Welsh ‘radio-rockers’ Lostprophets. With his band’s new album Weapons released on April 2nd and an upcoming tour of the UK, I questioned Luke about his live experiences, his life in the band and early use of the letter ‘z’.
Your sound has changed throughout your career, what can we expect from your new album?
A bit of everything really, our sound has changed a lot over the years and we’ve diversified, so we’ve included a bit for all the fans on this album. We have had to adapt to stay relevant and you have to sort of ride through the trends in order to stick around, but on this album I feel like we’ve included a bit of every stage of our career.
Did you approach the song writing and recording process any differently for the new album?
Um, not really. We went to Norfolk to record the majority of the songs. The process has its up and downs in terms of productivity, sometimes we’d just whack out a perfect song that works straight away, like with ‘Another Shot’ [the first song on the new album]which we made in just a few hours, but there’s times where its just a ball ache and we get nothing done.
Sum up your new album in one sentence.
Haha um, skull-crushing riffs and ear-shredding anthems! [laughs]
You’ve played at festivals a lot and I remember your set at Reading 2011 drew a particularly responsive reception from the audience. Do you prefer playing festivals or smaller venues?
It varies really. At festivals we can be playing alongside acts like Nicki Minaj and Rihanna, so it’s very poppy compared to smaller venues, which is super fun and nothing beats having thousands of people shouting your songs back at you. But in the run-up to festivals last year we did a series of smaller, more intimate and proper sweaty gigs, which were brilliant. It was great having the audience right in front of yourself, its much more intense than the festivals, but obviously they both have things that make them amazing.
Have you ever embarrassed yourself on-stage?
Yeah, quite a few times [laughs]. My favourite one was when me and Ian [Watkins, lead singer] swapped positions because he wanted play the drums for the song ‘Destroyer’, as he was the original drummer. The audience went absolutely mental and he didn’t know the drums and I couldn’t sing it well so I just started going mental onstage, I believe its on YouTube. That was my first time directly in front of the audience.
Ah that’s hard to say. Location wise, you can’t beat Australia, its like being paid to be on holiday. But sometimes on tour you miss home, like if you have played a crap gig you just want to go home sometimes, so gigs at home can be better in some ways. Also, the fans in the UK are the hardcore fans, they are the ones who got us into the position where we can travel the world and we’ll always respect that. I knew from the age of six that I wanted to be in a band and these are the fans that made it happen, so its great to play for them and see them singing along to the older songs.
What songs are your favourite to play live? Are there any that you get bored of playing?
The ones that get the biggest response from the crowds are always the best, for example ‘Can’t Catch Tomorrow’ is great to play, it’s got a great vibe. I’m really enjoying playing some of the newer songs at the moment, for example ‘Arsenal’ has a banging chorus and I’m super excited too see it become more popular. Obviously ‘Last Train Home’ is always brilliant as well and when the crowd reacts like they do, it can never get boring really.
Why do a lot of your album covers feature Latin on the front? Is this a deep thing or does it just make it look classy?
It’s sort of a trademark now so we keep it, it’s like when Metallica changed their logo and people were like ‘What the fuck?’; it’s a running theme that we don’t mess with now. We want people to look at the new cover and think ‘I recognize that but it’s a bit different’, so people associate it with us.
Your genres are described as ‘Alternative rock, alternative metal, post-hardcore, nu metal’. Would you say this is overcomplicating your music, how would you describe it?
I would say that we are a ‘radio-rock’ band. The first album was nu-metal I suppose, back when that was all the rage. We like to write the anthems, but we’re not your pastiche radio-rock band. We’d like to think that we’re a bit more than that and we try to draw in influences from a huge variety of genres.
Apparently, Lostprophets was originally spelt with the letter ‘z’ instead of ‘s’ and it’s also reported that you used to experiment in ska and hip hop. Are these true?
Unfortunately the z thing is true! [laughs]But they’re gone now, the unwanted z’s. I think the ska thing might be a rumour, I don’t recall it ever happening. You never know, we might release a ska album one day, it might be pretty funny, but as of yet it’s a genre that we haven’t particularly experimented with.
Does online music piracy annoy you? Do you have strong views on it? Is it something that bores you to discuss; I can imagine as an artist you are always asked your opinion of it?
Yeah, unfortunately it happens and it sucks, but people have got to learn to live with it. The annoying thing is that it means artists have to work a lot harder to make the money needed to support themselves, this is especially a problem for bands just starting their career up. It’s a matter of conscience really, I think people feel like ‘why should I pay when people are getting it for free’. People are trying to combat it, like Radiohead with that In Rainbows pay-what-you-want thing.
Finally, what’s the biggest compliment you have ever received about your music?
That’s a tough one because we’ve received so many nice compliments. NME have backed us from day one, which has been nice to have throughout our career, as they are a huge force in the music industry. The other day Tom Clarke from The Enemy was saying about how much he liked our stuff. One I’ll always remember is a kid coming up to me after a gig and saying that he was in a band, and I was his hero, which was really nice. It’s great to get good reviews as well. When we get bad ones, I try not to look into it too much because often they are personal attacks on the band rather than genuine critiques. I get more annoyed at badly written reviews rather than negative reviews in general.
Lostprophets play at Southampton Guildhall on May 2nd.