Ginger Nuts of Horror
I distinctly remember the sharp pain shooting up my leg from my knee as I whipped round awkwardly in my chair to stare at the radio and smacked it into my desk drawer. It got a second hammering on the bedframe as I scrambled over the rumpled covers to grab anxiously at the volume dial and depress the record and play buttons, hoping fervently that there was nothing irreplaceable on the C90 cassette in the deck. I recorded about three minutes of uninterrupted song eleven minutes into a movie songs compilation tape, effectively eliminating half each of ‘Power of Love’ by Huey Lewis and the News and Seal’s ‘Kiss from a Rose’. Under different circumstances I’d have been pissed off about this bad luck but I was over the moon with heart-in-mouth excitement about finally catching my radio wave unicorn. This was my first infraction into a musical landscape that would grip my fragile little brain tight and not let go. First though, I had to get the rest of the song on tape and not have some dickhead DJ talk over the last fifteen seconds. Most importantly though, I now had a song title and a band name to go on now: Yesterday Went Too Soon by Feeder. I was fifteen, I was addicted, and I was on a mission from God to find more about this music.
A couple of Christmas’ previously I’d been given my first hi-fi. It was a shoebox sized black plastic box with every pre-internet music pirate’s tools of choice: an FM radio and dual tape decks with record/play buttons. I had no particular musical taste outside of what my family played in my childhood and what was in the top 40. I was one part eclecticism and one part target market, and despite a growing interest in music played on guitars (having previously discovered the pop rock delights of Bryan Adams’ ‘Reckless’ and ’18 Til I Die’ albums which made me want to pick up an instrument) I had no discernable mast to tie my colours to. Nonetheless I would tune in for four hours every Sunday to listen to the music charts and tape anything that made me hum along, and 7:30pm on a Friday night was religiously Top of the Pops time. Pop music would enter my cranium and install an appreciation of a good melody but it was the dirty and awkward looking groups that showed up, freaked out the audience and played their songs which sounded more intense and more alive somehow than the pitch perfect song and dance routines of the choreographed boy/girl band majority. It would be a good year before I figured out that this was because they were playing live as compared to miming to a backing track. Live music – even through the TV - thrilled me.
One otherwise indescribable Sunday I was hanging round my room doing whatever it was that otherwise occupied my time at that age – probably agonizing over painting highlights on the retinas of my Warhammer figures – when the DJ announced a new entry into the top 40 as his voice promptly got lost in the song he was speaking over. Much like anything else he said, the band and the song title went over my head after what followed next. ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’ opens with a crashing, rolling, vibrating chord that sounded to my young brain like someone had recorded a heart breaking and send it through ten amplifiers turned all the way up. A voice cut through the lightening strike and mourned the death of some hitherto unknown relationship. I was innocent, never having had a girlfriend but the first life truth that this voice embedded in me was clear: love hurts.
That first listen passed in a daze. I was overwhelmed by the rich tapestry of acoustic and electric guitars being emitted through the speakers, the clear tones of an ensemble rather than a group of musicians writing a song. The second listen was urgency, all stabbing fingers on tape decks and rubbing a stinging kneecap. The third had to be crystal clear and all mine or my hormone-riddled brain would melt out of my ears, I was sure of it.
MVC was a veritable music fan’s lucky dip when it was around. In later years I was always able to find oddities that basic internet research told me was rare or apparently didn’t exist, yet often they would barely have half of the top forty artists. Feeder had a placeholder card but no album.
‘Well it’ll be back in, won’t it?’ the assistant told me, as if I’d just asked him to explain in ten words or less why dogs bark. He failed to see I was on a mission from God so I gave him my best dead eye stare.
‘You don’t understand, I need that band’s album’ I growled at him, feeling my right eyelid twitch a few times. He probably felt sorry for this sack of bones in front of him, attempting to be domineering and probably coming across as halfway between flirtatious and confused. He took my mum’s home phone number and promised to call me when they got any Feeder CDs in. Steve, store assistant of Barnsley Alhambra’s MVC store circa 1999, if by a twist of fate you’re reading this: you’re a lying sack of shit. You never called, man. You pinky swore.
A couple of frustrating weeks later after the next batch came in, and a few days running down after school playing ‘Hide the most pristine copy out of three’ whilst I waited for my weekly odd job wage to mount up, the full length album with my radio treasure was mine. On the 343 bus home I pored over the existential artwork depicting some minimalist abduction fantasy, absorbing in every line of the crew and legal information, coming around to the idea of bleached hair, long coats and retro British automobiles, feeling slightly nauseous at the idea that some of these thirteen songs that I’d parted with over three weeks savings could be, you know, a bit shit. I was having palpitations and clearly none of my fellow travellers understood the urgency of the situation.
I’d love to be able to write that it was everything I wanted it to be. The truth is I didn’t know what to expect. I had nothing of any weight to compare it to, no proverbial yardstick, and so I truly devoured it with an entirely open mind. Keen for an immediate fix, I went straight for ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’, skipping back over and over again until some part of my serotonin-flooded mind felt content to let go of the safety of the known and explore the rest of the album.
At the time Feeder gaining momentum after being hailed by the British music press as the UK’s answer to Smashing Pumpkins. After touring through the USA and suffering from insomnia and other health problems, singer and guitarist Grant Nicholas had written a sophomore album of what felt like deep-felt honesties and confessions centred around the themes of finding yourself in the world amid chemicals and sleep deprivation, the frustration at the monotony of mundane life, young love and frantic hormone heavy relationships. If that combination doesn’t speak to any teenager in the Western world then said teenager needs checking for signs of brainwashing and heartbeat.
When your world has rung to the sound of Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtrack strings, country and western guitars, and drones of eighties and nineties pop synth and keyboards, when the opening jingle of ‘Anaesthetic’ delivers an instantly accessible saturated guitar line fuzzy with trepidation and cranked Big Muff pedals you sit up and pay attention. It sounded like every sci-fi laser gun sound had been soaked in sugar till it crystallized, painted bright purple and electric blue and compacted into sound waves to be imprisoned on this one compact disc just for me and by pressing play I had released into the world the sound of bliss and euphoria. If you have never felt this way about a band, particularly as a teenager when your hormones are at their most delinquent and excessive, then I really feel sorry for you. I noticed I was stood holding the CD case, still in school uniform, backpacked and coated, simply mesmerized at what the little Alba speakers were emitting. As track four - the supernatural title track that started my path of discovery – rolled around again for it’s twentieth play I realized that everything I had previously believed to be a good song was a greyed out, vapid lie in the same vein as watching a live action princess at Disneyland prop open a fire escape, take off her wig and light up a cigarette. Feeder weren’t making cookie cutter pop songs with dance routines, nor songs of bitterness and violent history like my parents’ Irish folk songs, nor were they the worn out horns-up, bandana round head, twenty notes a second classic rock that my cousins wallpapered their box rooms with. Feeder’s sound was a space ride on a friendly UFO, a three piece that were beating a whole new sound spectrum out of their instruments and singing jubilation and commiseration just for me.
My love of Feeder grew with me and I with it. In retrospect buying that album was the line in the sand between my childhood and the start of my evolution into who I am today, a fully fledged space cadet at thirty years of age. Passing glances in the mirror as to how I appeared to my peers would lead to an expensive trip to the hairdressers for bleached, messy, surfer hair just like Grant’s. My functional school jacket was replaced with a denim jacket that I littered with band pin badges and wore like a second skin as it became frayed, washed out and threadbare over the years. I picked up the red Stratocaster copy I had left under the bed for months and tried again to recreate the sounds I had heard on my growing record collection. My fingers ached and grew thicker skin to deal with the agony of new guitarist barre chords. I started venturing out to gigs in Leeds and Manchester after eagerly attending each and every of the few-and-far-between local rock gigs. I loved being surrounded by people discussing music that was current and new, and I similarly loved that I had a band and an album I could name as my favourites, as my personal chunk of the zeitgeist that had intoxicated me more than any other. By the time Feeder dropped their follow up ‘Echo Park’ in 2001 with the ubiquitous, chart-fucking single ‘Buck Rogers’ I had grown into my skin. Delightfully, if my friends hadn’t heard Feeder from me before, then now they didn’t stand a chance of avoiding them.
Later when I joined The Idol Dead and met Tim we quickly found a mutual love of ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’ and despite finding it at different points in our lives - Tim is several years older than me so this was his university album - we bonded over the sublime layers within the guitars and the thick, hummable riffs and lead lines that were the building block of the Feeder songwriting school. I walked into my rehearsal for the band sporting a Fender Jazzmaster and aping the energetic playing of bassist Taka Hirose as I banged my heels down and bounced around. My future bandmates hated the thin sound of the Jazzmaster but in my hands it was a talismanic symbol: real musicians had always played Fenders in my eyes and the Jazzmaster was the angular source of Feeder’s sound. This is where it had taken me.
It’s a rare occasion when music impacts me as much as listening to that album did half a lifetime ago. I’m not even sure if music could touch me like that again: I don’t think I have that combination of ignorance and hormones left in me. In the years between then and now my tastes have altered and accepted varied and different flavours of music but ‘Yesterday…’ remains one of my favourites, the comfortable pillow of melody I crawl back to when I need to be reminded that the world is a scintillating, huge, vibrant place.
In my desk drawer I have a collection of guitar effects that I don’t use much now. One is a Line 6 Tremolo pedal, which basically turns your volume up and down very fast and stutters whatever you’re playing. In my early days of being in The Idol Dead I found it cheap in a swap shop in Leeds. I smuggled it into rehearsal and plugged it in into my amplifier without changing the dial settings. I hit a chord and held my breath as the warm, wavering flood of stuttering undulations rippled over me. It was on the same settings as the beginning of ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’ and I knew because of that I will never part with it. As long as it is in my possession I can relive that thrill of being fifteen and wide eyed anytime I want.
KC Duggan lives in Leeds, England with his girlfriend, two cats and their myriad comic collection. He has performed throughout the UK and abroad with The Idol Dead (www.theidoldead.com) for the past five years, releasing three studio albums: Die On Your Feet or Live on Your Knees in 2010, Dark Little Hearts in 2012 and Hollow Point Curses in 2014. Despite the best efforts of the music industry they remain fiercely independent, self managed and fan funded with Dark Little Hearts and Hollow Point Curses being financed by crowdfunding platforms Pledgemusic and WeFund. KC also writes his own music under the moniker Fear the Ocean (www.facebook.com/feartheocean) which he threatens to release any year now, and writes for the music journalism collective The Handsome Press (www.thehandsomepress.co.uk). In 2015 he will make his small screen debut in the independent psychological drama Luna Demise to be broadcast on Sky TV.