lostprophets are a Welsh rock band formed in 1997. They have released several demos, none of which are still produced commercially, and two studio albums. The first of these, The Fake Sound of Progress, was originally recorded for the meagre sum of £6000 and intended as a glorified demo, but after catching the ears of several major labels, the band re-recorded and re-released the album on a much wider scale through Columbia Records. This resulted in a backlash against the band that was exacerbated by the four-year gap between their first and second albums. When the second album, Start Something, was finally released, the band achieved even greater success, entering the UK album chart at number five, and earning the band international popularity, most notably in the United States.
Amongst other things, they are largely credited with popularising items like studded belts, low-slung jeans, trucker caps and tight-fitting T-shirts in the United Kingdom. Although these items have long been associated with the UK rock scene, it was not until the release of lostprophet's debut album, and the hype that accompanied it, that items such as these began being adopted by pop music stylists and sold at mainstream high street stores like TopMan.
The band formed in the town of Pontypridd near Cardiff in 1997. It formed with the break-up of Public Disturbance, which featured drummer Ian Watkins and guitarist Mike Lewis. With Watkins taking over vocal duties, the band recruited guitarist Mike Chiplin, who would later take over on drums, and guitarist Lee Gaze. The band is named after a bootleg recording of a 1988 Duran Duran concert in Italy. Early variations on the spelling of the band's name included Lozt Prophetz, before the band finally settled on its current incarnation – all one word, all in lower case.
lostprophets started out as part of the fledgling South Wales hardcore scene, playing gigs at venues across South Wales including T.J.'s in Newport (allegedly where Kurt Cobain proposed to Courtney Love). From there, they went on to conduct tours on the UK's toilet circuit.
The band released several early demos, on which they experimented with their sound extensively. Their first known recording, Here Comes The Party, featured ska-like brass instrumentation on some tracks, as well as the novelty of frontman Ian Watkins rapping. As the band refined their sound, the rapping was quickly abandoned, though a strong hip-hop influence remains evident in the band's sound.
One of their early demos caught the eye of Kerrang! magazine, which offered them a gig in London. Independent label Visible Noise then offered them the opportunity to record a single. The band spent most of 1999 working on new material with Stuart Richardson, who had joined the band as a bass player.
In February 2000, they signed with Visible Noise. The band's first album The Fake Sound of Progress was then released through the label in July. Costing just £6000 and recorded in less than two weeks, the record drew on a wide range of influences, no doubt at least partially inspired by Refused's seminal final album The Shape of Punk to Come, which was released the year before the band began working on material for their debut album. Soon after the album's completion, musician Jamie Oliver joined the band.
The album featured many references to 1980s pop-culture. As well as the Duran Duran reference in the band's name, there was an image of Venger from the Dungeons & Dragons TV series on the album liner notes, as well as song titles like "ShinobiVsDragonNinja" and "Kobrakai". The first song's title was a reference to the video games Shinobi and Dragon Ninja, while the second was an alternative spelling of Cobra Kai, the name of the karate dojo in the Karate Kid movies.
The album caught the attention of Q Prime management, which represent such acts as The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica. The band was then courted by an array of America's top major labels, enjoying meals at top-class restaurants and other perks; in an interview conducted a few months later, the band claimed the most bizarre gift they received was $1000 worth of pornography. In another interview, the band jokingly remarked that one American showcase gig was so crowded with major label bigwigs that should the venue have been targeted by terrorists, the entire American music industry would have collapsed overnight. Eventually, the band chose to sign with Columbia, a division of Sony Records, though in the UK their records continue to be released through Visible Noise.
At their new label's request, the band entered a New York studio with renowned producer Michael Barbiero to re-record their Visible Noise debut. The retooled version of The Fake Sound of Progress was released in October 2001, and dedicated to Steve Cookson, a fan who died in a car crash whilst travelling to a lostprophets gig. The album propelled the band to previously unimaginable levels of success, but at the same time divided much of the band's existing fan base, whilst also polarizing the opinion of others in the metal and rock communities who were discovering the band for the first time. Some saw them as the future of British music; others saw them as a "safe", corporate band, while accusations of selling out began being hurled at the band from the underground music scene within which they achieved their first success.
During this period, lostprophets built up a strong live following with support slots to popular acts such as Linkin Park, Deftones and Taproot, as well as several headlining stints of their own.
Like most artists who break out of an insular scene such as the hardcore scene of South Wales, the band suffered a backlash from fans. The backlash against lostprophets was particularly severe; they were labelled everything from sell-outs to a manufactured boy band. As the touring cycle for a set of songs that loyal fans first heard in 1999 became longer and longer, so the animosity against the band grew and grew. Their brash, outspoken interviews often added fuel to the fire, though they did also endear the band to many fans, and helped them shrug off the boy band rumours that plagued them for a number of years. Such rumours were no doubt exacerbated by the bands policy regarding interviews; they will give an interview for any publication but never hide their true personalities behind a corporate rock star facade. This resulted in the band conducting interviews with such credibility sapping magazines as J-17 and Cosmo Girl.
The extreme reactions to the band were best displayed as the anti-lostprophets backlash and their rising fame collided head-on at the 2001 Deconstruction festival in London. lostprophets' reception at this Punk festival was not received well, many people felt that although they were good, it just wasn't the right festival for them to be playing at. The band attracted thousands of their own 12 year old fans to the event, but many of those attending the event were there for punk and reacted with hostility to their booking. Throughout their set, lostprophets were bombarded with bottles and other items from the crowd, and in the end finished their set 20 minutes early, being "bottled off". In the next issue of Kerrang! magazine, several crowd members were interviewed. Almost all identified themselves as being decidedly anti-lostprophets, but remarked that they were impressed that the band managed to weather a hostile crowd and complete their planned performance. Although this event boosted the band's tumbling credibility within the alternative music scene that spawned them, it was not enough to completely quiet their detractors.
Despite the negative responses to the band's new corporate paymasters from many fans, the following years saw lostprophets achieve a meteoric rise to success. They found themselves in many previously unimaginable situations, such as touring with the Ozzfest heavy metal extravaganza, playing at Glastonbury and the Reading and Leeds Festival, and appearing on a bizarre array of British TV shows, including Top of the Pops, CD:UK and Never Mind The Buzzcocks. They also performed as part of the 2002 NME Awards tour, underneath headliner Andrew W.K.. Andrew W.K. had been hailed by such magazines as NME and Kerrang! as a saviour of rock music but, despite the hype, at some shows as many as two-thirds of the crowd left after the lostprophets' performance. The band found themselves in other bizarre situations, such as discovering that fashion designer Donatella Versace's child was a fan of their music, and subsequently being invited to her home and given a free shopping spree in the Versace store.
In spite of achieving only modest commercial success with The Fake Sound of Progress (though this was vastly beyond the initial expectations for an album originally recorded on an independent UK label), the band's influence became far-reaching. Multi-platinum selling nu metal band Limp Bizkit briefly imitated the band, spelling their name all in one lower-case word for a short time (limpbizkit). Stores such as TopMan and H&M began selling clothing that was markedly similar to those worn by lostprophets. The impact the band had on mainstream fashion sparked rumours that they were employing the use of stylists, or even that they were an entirely manufactured band. The band stated in several magazine interviews that they found these rumours ironic, because as far as they were concerned, many major-label stylists working with manufactured acts were copying them to achieve an "edgier" look. During a 2002 NME tour show televised on MTV2, the band parodied the whole controversy by sporting matching outfits (denim jackets, white T-shirts and jeans).
Another rumour that began circulating during this period was that some, if not all, members of the band were gay. These rumours were largely attributed to the band members being very fashion conscious and noticeably metrosexual, and were probably exacerbated by photo shoots such as one conducted for Kerrang! in 2002, in which several band members posed in bed together. The rumours have been denied on a number of occasions. All band members are heterosexual and most are in long-term relationships.
Another rumour that accompanied lostprophets' new-found success was that they were a straight edge band. Several members do subscribe to this philosophy, however; Ian Watkins, Lee Gaze, and Mike Lewis, who has been quoted as saying, "you booze, you lose". Mike Chiplin does not drink alcohol either, but does not consider himself straight edge. The only members of the band who do drink are Jamie Oliver and Stuart Richardson.
After the extensive touring cycle for The Fake Sound of Progress finally ended, the band took a brief break before beginning the process of writing new material at Frontline Studios in Caerphilly, Wales. They then entered LA's Bigfoot Studio for a recording process that lasted from March until September 2003, with producer Eric Valentine. Valentine had previously produced albums for Queens of the Stone Age and Good Charlotte.
The first most fans heard from the album was the song "Burn Burn", the music video for which began receiving heavy rotation on satellite channels like MTV2, Kerrang! TV and Scuzz in the UK. The song attracted some criticism, however, as the opening bore a striking resemblance to "Mother Mary", a song from commercially unsuccessful but critically hailed emo band Far's seminal Water and Solutions album. The band themselves even conceded in interviews that the singing pattern bore an inadvertent but undeniable similarity to the Adamski song "Killer".
The single was released on November 3, 2003, and was originally scheduled to be closely followed by the release of the album. However, the release of the album was delayed several times and demo versions of many songs leaked onto peer-to-peer file sharing networks. A headlining tour of the UK, set to include an appearance at the Reading and Leeds Festival, was also postponed during this time, prompting much speculation to the validity of Ian Watkins' somewhat hyperbolical assertion in a Kerrang! magazine interview that, in regard to the quality of Start Something, "no-one can touch us".
Those doubting lostprophets' ability to "produce the goods" with the second album were largely those same people who had formed part of the backlash to the band's initial success. The accusations of "selling out" that had long plagued the band were directly addressed on the "Burn Burn" B-side, with the song "Our Broken Hearts (Theme from Top Gun 2)" featuring the repeated line "if there's a way that you could be everything you want to be, would you complain that it came to you too easily?", along with many other statements aimed at their detractors.
The band eventually rescheduled the previously cancelled UK shows, with the exception of their scheduled appearance at the Reading and Leeds Festivals, stating in magazine interviews that honouring those commitments would have meant leaving the recording studio while the album was still only half completed, and booking extra studio time to make up the time spent touring the UK would have cost thousands of dollars.
The album was finally released in the UK on February 2, 2004. It opened with the track "We Still Kill The Old Way", a bold statement of intent. As the band confirmed in interviews, the name and concept of the album, much like the "Our Broken Hearts" B-side, was addressing the hypocrisy of many of their detractors, who have accused the band of selling out but mostly do not turn their words into action and take the risks that come along with following their dreams. The lyric that perhaps best states the band's feelings on this matter, also from "Our Broken Hearts", is the refrain "your broken dreams, they could've been, everything you wanted to be, everything you want for me".
In an appearance on MTV2's flagship show Gonzo, Jamie Oliver offered his own explanation for the backlash against the band, stating that fans who were used to being part of an elite group who listened to the band had suddenly lost that elitism with the band's wider success.
Compared to The Fake Sound of Progress, the commercial success achieved by the album was phenomenal, peaking at number four in the UK Albums Chart. The critical response from mainstream magazines was overwhelmingly positive, though the response from rock publications such as Kerrang!, Metal Hammer and Rock Sound that had been following the band's ascension for a number of years was decidedly tepid. To promote the album, they toured North America, Europe and, as part of the Big Day Out festival, Australia.
The second single to be released was "Last Train Home". It was a number-one song on US Modern Rock Tracks radio play chart for one week, and reached number eight in the UK charts. The band refused to release the accompanying music video to MTV's Total Request Live, however, realising it could seriously damage their credibility among serious American rock fans, and thus make it harder for the band to establish a long-lasting career and loyal international fan base. Similarly, the band had a dispute with their record label over what would be chosen as the third release from the record. Both lostprophets and their N Prime management wanted the dark, brooding "Make A Move"; the label wanted the poppier, catchier "I Don't Know". The band and their management walked away victorious from this battle of wills, however, and the song was released as a single with the modified title "Wake Up (Make A Move)".
The touring cycle for the record culminated in the bands biggest headlining show to date; on November 21, 2004, lostprophets sold-out the cavernous Cardiff International Arena, a once unimaginable feat that served as concrete proof of just how big the band had become.
On June 20, 2005, founding member Mike Chiplin left the group to "pursue other musical opportunities".
Currently, the remaining members are working on material for the next album, with a view for a release sometime in 2006, probably in the summer. Due to the lengthy gap between The Fake Sound of Progress and Start Something, and the backlash that grew against the band because of it, lostprophets have repeatedly stated in interviews that they want to release a third full-length album as quickly as possible, though it is not yet known how the departure of Mike Chiplin will affect this goal.
The remaining band members have stated that they will be working with Bob Rock, famous for being Metallica's producer of choice, on the new record. The band describe their new sound as being like The Clash playing Bon Jovi songs.
For more information see: http://www.sonymusic.co.uk/lostprophets/intro.php