Lostprophets Guitarist Mike Lewis Talks New Album ‘Weapons’ + Underdog Mentality
The Lostprophets are back! The Welsh rockers had a tough go of it in the States the last few years dealing with label issues and watching their fourth album ‘The Betrayed’ completely miss out of being released in the U.S., though it did quite well in other parts of the world.
The group is definitely ripe for a comeback this year. They’re playing Vans Warped Tour this summer, and have built their following so much overseas that Warped organizers asked them to headline the inaugural Warped Tour run in the U.K. later this year.
Guitarist Mike Lewis spoke exclusively with Loudwire about the band’s triumphant new album ‘Weapons’ (due June 19), the underdog mentality that’s served them well throughout their career, and their excitement for playing again in the United States.
Did you have a mindset or thought of what you wanted to do going into this album?
Kind of. Our plan was to not have a plan if that makes sense. Like the last two records we’ve kind of gone in thinking about what kind of record we wanted to make and with this one we just kind of wanted to go in with kind of a clean slate. We kind of felt with the last four records we kind of close a chapter and we’ve kind of done that. With the new one we just wanted to write a Lostprophets record, like we went in and felt like when we started going in to a room together and just kind of no game plan, no any kind of preconceived ideas of what we were going to do. We just kind of jammed to see what might come out. We didn’t really try to pull on any kind of influences or anything like that. It was just trying to see what naturally comes out, and that’s kind of the way we went about it.
It’s interesting that you say you don’t want to pull from any influences, because as I’m listening to this, it may be as diverse a record as I’ve heard from Lostprophets. You’ve got stuff that’s really aggressive and other material that has a dance-y feel to it. It’s kind of across the board.
Yeah, I mean we’ve always kind of touched on all of those, especially the kind of dance stuff. I think ‘Bring ‘Em Down’ is probably the most we’ve ever put into electronic stuff, and maybe dance elements in a song. We’ve always kind of done it, but maybe in the past it’s been more like a feel or with interludes or stuff like that cause we’ve always been sort of big dance music fans, all that breakbeat and stuff. We’ve always kind of dipped our toes into it, and I think that on the new one, ‘Bring ‘Em Down’ is the one that’s gone the most that way.
But I think our records have always been diverse. If you go back to ‘Start Something,’ I mean you’ve got songs like ‘I Don’t Know’ and ‘Last Summer’ which are very poppy, but then you have songs like ‘Tell Me Right’ and ‘Start Something’ themselves which are very aggressive, so I think we’ve always had very diverse records, you know, and with this one we almost wanted, and as time went on we just wanted to make a Lostprophets record. We kind of felt like it was going back to sounding like some of our earlier stuff.
You mention ‘Bring ‘Em Down‘ and what a great song to start off the record with. I think one of the things that’s really cool about it is the callbacks that I can almost hear with the crowd shouting along. I don’t know how much you’ve had a chance to play, but I’ve got to think that’s going to be a live favorite. Can you talk about the song and how much you’re anxious to get it out there for audiences?
We’ve only kind of started touring. Even though the record’s not out in the States yet, it’s been out pretty much everywhere else in the world since April and we’ve already done like a U.K. and European tour and through Australia as well. And that song, we opened and that was the first song we’d play on the U.K. and European tours and we’d come on to that. It was a great opening song and it kind of kicks you in the face straight away.
When we write songs, we always think about playing them live. We’ve always got that in our heads when we’re writing songs and always think about a riff or a chorus or a vocal mark or something and we think how it’s going to go down live. With the breakdown, like the one at the end of ‘Bring ‘Em Down,’ we think, ‘Oh yeah, it’s gonna f—in’ gonna go crazy when we play this live and kids are gonna go off.’ And like you say, with that sing-back part, we’ve always got that in our heads when we’re writing and that part, we definitely felt that and it’s been going down great live. The kids have been going mental from the get-go and singing along and stuff, so it’s been a fun one to play.
Listening to a song like ‘Bring ‘Em Down’ or even ‘Better Off Dead,’ where the lyric says ‘I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees,’ it kind of gives you that ‘we’re not going to take it lying down’ attitude. How important of a message is that to get out to the fans and the people that you’re here to stay?
We always kind of have that mentality, you know. Even going back to ‘Start Something,’ we have that … I don’t know, we always kind of feel like we have that underdog mentality no matter what goes on with us. Over the past few years, we’ve had some issues here in the States, but everywhere else in the world it’s kind of taken over nicely, especially in Europe and the U.K. has really been taking over nicely. But we still kind of have that underdog mentality no matter what happens and I don’t know why that is.
Maybe it’s the way we all grew up, working class kids from a small town and I don’t know why that is. But we always feel like we have a point to prove, so with this one and the examples you said, yeah, we’re definitely not going to take anything laying down and we definitely feel like we’re going to do our thing regardless. We’re not going anywhere and I think that’s one of the reasons why we really wanted this record to come out in the States. The last one didn’t, which we were really bummed about. We had a bunch of people from America get in touch with us asking what was going on, so with this one we really wanted it to come out in the States and it’s amazing that we got the opportunity to work with Fearless and it’s been amazing so far, so I’m really excited.
You mentioned the underdog mentality earlier, and moving that over to ‘We Bring An Arsenal,’ which seems to be saying ‘Hey, we’re sticking together and this is who we are.’ What can you share about what stands out for you on that song?
You’re definitely right with the message on that. It’s like no matter what you do or what you come at us with, we’re gonna come back ten times harder. We just wanted, like the chant in there is kind of like an English soccer chant. It’s kind of like on the terraces in England where all the football fans chant and stuff, we just kind of wanted to make a big singalong. It’s very aggressive and even though it’s like a pop song, it’s very aggro and has that feel to it, which we wanted. And going back to what I was saying earlier about playing live, that was definitely one where we thought how big it could be. Playing that song live over in Europe, immediately kids start singing. It’s f—in’ awesome. [laughs] That’s exactly what we wanted and it’s such a fun song to play live.
I’ve got to ask because you say you want it like an English soccer chant, is this a not-so-subliminal sign of support for Arsenal?
No, no, no. I don’t support Arsenal. My guitar tech supports Arsenal, and he was stoked about it, but not me though. It was actually really funny. We debated it for a long time whether to call it that because it was like will it have too much of an attachment to Arsenal, the football club, or no, I don’t think so. I’m really like the only guy in the band that’s into football, and they were asking me if kids would think it was like a song for the Arsenal football team, and I’m like, ‘No, not at all.’ But no, I don’t support Arsenal. They can use our song if they want to. [laughs] But I don’t support them.
I really like ‘A Song Where I’m From’ on this record. Your guitar kicks the thing off and it definitely seems like a personal track. And I know some of you are split between overseas and here. Can you talk about trying to balance that where you’re from and where you’re at right now?
I live in L.A. and I’ve lived here for like eight years now, so it’s been a while, but I get to go back to Wales and it’s awesome. I’m incredibly proud of where I’m from and I still love the place. Sometimes it takes you going away from a place, it takes you going away to make you appreciate how great a place that is. I kind of took it for granted when I was growing up and now when I’m not there for any length of time I definitely miss the place. And I am grateful that I grew up there and still love going back, and apart from my wife and daughter, most of my family still live there.
But it can be a little bit tough, sometimes with four of the band living here in California and then one guy still lives in Wales, and then another guy lives in London, so sometimes logistically it can be a little bit of a problem with us being all over the place. When it comes to rehearsing and writing we can make it work because we all get together for like a big block of time, but something like silly little things like we need to do a photo shoot and there’s four on one side of the world and two on the other. It becomes a pain, but we make it work. It’s kind of been this way for a long time now, so we’re kind of used to it and we’ve actually been a band this way longer than we were when we all kind of lived in one place. So yeah, we make it work.
That song, because it is so personal and it conjures up what you grew up with, can you talk about what it was like putting that song together and reflecting on what it was like growing up?
We actually wrote that song for the last album. We wrote that in Cardiff actually, and we went back to Cardiff to do some writing for the last record … We always kind of write our best stuff in Cardiff I feel. When it comes to those big anthemic songs like that, when we go back there I think there’s something special about it and it brings something out in us. I don’t know if it’s us being comfortable or just like the surroundings, but I don’t know. There’s a sudden influence on us.
And yes we wrote that song, and I think the lyrics are definitely inspired by the fact that we’ve been away and we went back and everybody felt so comfortable. We kind of churned that one out and then on the last record, ‘The Betrayed,’ we had a song called ‘Where We Belong’ which kind of had a very similar feel to it, a very similar sort of message, so it kind of replaced that song in the last album, but then when we were doing this one, we were kind of going back listening to some old ideas and we listened to that song and we were like, ‘This is a f—ing great song.’ So we kind of tweaked it and brought it back.
Ian still lives in Wales and he had lived here for a little bit and then he went back to Wales, so I think it was especially poignant for him to go back and feel at home like he was almost back where he belonged, you know.
You had a chance to work with Ken Andrews from Failure, Year of the Rabbit, and On. He’s done so many great records as a musician and producing as well. If you could, talk about Ken’s input on this record and what it was like working with him.
He was really cool actually. It was very kind of collaborative. We worked with Eric Valentine and Bob Rock and both are amazing producers, but obviously they were a lot more forceful with their ideas, if that makes sense. Not in a bad way, but in a good way. They’re both two incredibly talented guys. But with Ken it was a lot more ‘Well, what do you guys think?’ And it was very much like him offering his opinion rather than like, ‘You SHOULD do it this way.’ … It was really nice and it was a great time working with him, great guy, very talented and a very talented songwriter.
The reason we tend to work with him was Stu, our bass player, was a big Failure fan. So he was saying that Ken had gotten into producing and done a bunch of bands and everything he had done sounded great … We did our last record ourselves and we didn’t want to do that again this time. We wanted someone who was like a halfway between doing it ourselves and having a producer and Ken really kind of fit in that mold. He had a lot of great ideas and was a creative guy and was wonderful to work with.
I noticed on the deluxe edition of your album, you’ve got ‘If You Don’t Stand for Something, You’ll Fall for Anything.’ How did that end up being part of the deluxe release?
Well we wrote that back in ’07 I think it was in our old drummer, Ilan Rubin’s, garage. It was one of the first songs when we started writing songs for ‘The Betrayed,’ and before we even did the album we scrapped it. It was like the beginning of ’07, and the song never made it. I had that guitar riff and I wrote the song around that, but it never really quite developed into what we thought it was going to. But we went back to it, we were looking for stuff for deluxe editions and we went back through this old stuff that we thought was cool. It maybe wasn’t cool enough to be an album track, but we thought kids would get a kick out of hearing it. So we found about six or seven tracks in total that didn’t make albums that we’ll use on different deluxe editions around the world … so that was one of the tracks that made the U.K. one and the U.S. one. And we’re already getting kids asking us to play it live. So yeah, that was us ripping off Refused.
You mention kids asking you to play stuff live, and I realize this may change from day to day, but if you could, maybe a favorite song off the back catalog to play live and a song from the new album you’re looking forward to getting out to audiences.
I think from our old stuff, I love playing ‘Burn Burn.’ I think that’s my favorite song to play live, especially when we play it in the U.K. We would just close with it on the U.K. and European tour and it’s always just f—ing insane when we play that. It’s always a fun song to play. New song? I would probably say ‘We Bring An Arsenal’ is my favorite new one just cause it has that big crowd sing-along, and for me playing live it’s all about the crowd getting into it and their reaction, so that to me is like 50 percent of it, you know. So when you’re playing a song and kids are going off or whatever that makes it like ten times more fun to play.
Watch the Lostpophets’ ‘Bring ‘Em Down’ Video