Wil Marlow hears a tale of survival from Feeder's Grant Nicholas...
For nearly ten years Feeder have been one of Britain's most consistently successful rock bands. In many ways that success, marked this month by the release of their first greatest hits collection, is remarkable.
For a start, despite hits like Buck Rogers and Just The Way I'm Feeling, household name status eludes them - yet they can sell out large venues with ease. There is no celebrity attached to the band - made up of frontman Grant Nicholas, 38, bassist Taka Hirose, also 38, and drummer Mark Richardson, 35 - despite their longevity.
"We've never really played that game," agrees Grant. "Maybe if I had played it a bit more we might have been a bit more successful earlier on, but it's not really something we've done.
"There have been opportunities where we could have played that game, and of course we do go to events like award ceremonies, but at least we've achieved what we've achieved through touring and the songs."
Most remarkable of all, however, is Feeder's survival after the devastating suicide of their drummer Jon Lee in January 2002. It was a hugely unexpected and shocking event, both for the fans and, of course, for the band and Jon's family. No one saw it coming.
"It's the last thing you expect," says Grant. "Especially from somebody like Jon who was, well, he was the full rock'n'roll drummer. He was so confident and everything about him was so driven. But life's full of surprises. You never really know."
Jon was just 33. He was dividing his time between the UK and Miami, where he lived with his wife, model Tatiana Englehart, and their young son Cameron. He met Tatiana in 1998 while Feeder were touring the US and they married in 2000.
He seemed happy, and in December 2001 he had found out his wife was pregnant with their second child. The evening of January 6 he called Grant twice from Miami, leaving a normal-sounding message the second time.
Grant is unsure whether his having taken the calls would have made much difference, but inevitably feels guilty. Talking about it now, he says he still feels confused by the whole thing.
"I don't think you ever come to terms with someone taking their own life," he says. "I don't think I'll ever quite accept the fact that he did.
If you've got some sort of terminal disease or something then possibly it's a bit more understandable. But when you've got so many things in your life..." he tails off.
"I don't know, it's a tough one. But whatever was on his mind at the time obviously pushed him and that was it, that's all I can tell you. I've got a few ideas about possibly why, but who knows. I wasn't there, I wish I had been. Maybe I could have done something about it."
No one was sure what Jon's death meant for the band, especially not Grant or Taka. Grant and Jon had formed Feeder together in 1991, enlisting Taka, who was new to London fresh from Tokyo, through an ad in classifieds paper Loot.
"We had a little bit of a language problem at first," recalls Grant. "But Taka was a bit different - he looked different, and also he was a really good bass player."
Jon was an integral part of the band, doing the lion's share of the interviews with Grant. The pair had known each other since they were teenagers in south Wales, playing in various bands, and struck up a firm friendship when they both joined an avant garde rock band called Temper Temper.
Grant had invited Jon to London once he'd moved there in his early 20s, and together they started Feeder. As such his death put the band's future in serious doubt - Taka headed back to Japan, while Grant retreated to the studio.
"I'm quite lucky that I've got an outlet with my songwriting," says Grant, "and I think it was a really good way of dealing with it and putting all those negative thoughts into something positive, which was music."
This would be reflected in the title of their next album, Comfort In Sound. Before Jon's death the band had already started work on this album, the follow up to their hit album Echo Park.
Echo Park had been their biggest album yet and the band were at the top of their game. When Grant revisited the demos for its follow-up, he realised that there was still life in Feeder, and slowly began to work on the new music.
"It was a hard decision," says Grant. "But at the same time, internally, musically, the band was in pretty good shape. I know that Jon loved the band, so to lose Feeder and lose everything felt wrong. We decided to just see what happened.
"There was no plan. We didn't know whether we'd just make that album and that would be it, or whether we'd find a permanent drummer. We were just seeing how it went really. We didn't know whether the public would want us to carry on. We didn't know how people would take it."
They hired Leeds-born Mark Richardson, the former drummer of the defunct Skunk Anansie, with whom Feeder had toured in the past. His integration into the band was played sensitively - he only became a permanent member on Feeder's 2005 album Pushing The Senses.
"It's different with Mark," says Grant. "I can't compare the two. I wish I could say it's the same but he's such a different personality to Jon. Mark and myself are very different people, and it's still taking time. But it's working and he's starting to really fit in now."
If there's one thing Grant's sure about, it's that Feeder are not splitting up. Recent reports to the contrary were started by a misunderstood comment Grant made about their record deal running out after the next album, which is due early next year.
"People thought I was saying it would be our last album ever, which isn't the case," says Grant. "We might do a new deal with our current label, or we might go with a different label, we're not sure yet. But we're not splitting up.
"There's the possibility of us all doing other stuff in the future. Who knows in this business? But I've no plans to finish just yet. I think there's a time when bands do need to stop but I don't think Feeder have reached that yet."
* Feeder's greatest hits collection, The Singles, is out today