As 2017 comes to a close I wanted our last interviewee to be someone that truly had something to say and who was a person of interest. Someone that I respect to the hilt as an artist and someone who has peaked my fascination on numerous occasions this year. I have been incredibly fixated on Pretty Addicted and have been captivated by the rollercoaster of absolute highs and downright lows of a true diy band pushing against the grain to justly make a mark on the scene, the industry and even the world.
This morning I caught up with Vicious to reflect on 2017, band etiquette, mental health, social media campaigns, drummers, recording ‘Magic Of A Lunatic’ and how to own 2018 like a boss….
Hey Vish, let’s start with a simple introduction – the majority of our readers will know who you are but explain to the rest of the world who you are and the ethos of Pretty Addicted….
Well then. It’s Vicious Precious here. And the truth is I’m not sure where Vicious ends and Addicted begins. I think Pretty Addicted might just BE Vicious Precious.
All the thoughts in my head -good and bad, all the emotions I deal with, the life I’ve led, my incredible love for music, ALL music, Pretty Addicted is the place where I get it all out. It’s not even just a “band”, because truthfully behind the live show it’s just me writing the music, letting my demons escape, telling my story, and it so happens to be in musical form. I’ve always loved ALL music, not just the alternative, so PA is a thing that allows me to put all my favourite musical styles together, Dance, Trance, Metal, Punk, Drum and Bass, Electro, Goth, all those influences are in there and it works. For me at least. But that’s all this really is anyway, me just doing me, for me, and it’s really an amazing bonus that other people get it and like it too.
You recently dropped album number four ‘The Magic Of A Lunatic’ which is a high energy assault of the senses written, recorded, produced, released and toured – by you – tell us about twelve tracks – or stories as they may be – and why album number four almost killed you emotionally…..
What a beautiful introduction, thank you. “Assault of the sense”, I like that. I really wanted to make an album about mental health. It’s something I deal with on a daily basis and I know a lot of other people do too. And there doesn’t seem to be any albums specifically written for that, so I wanted to write it. I separated the songs, as you can tell on the back on the physical CD, into 3 categories: Happy Pills, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and Anti-Depressants. For me they were the 3 main issues I deal with; Mania, Anxiety and Depression. So with those 3 groups it allowed me to write songs specifically for each mental health issue and it mean that when you’re feeling, say, happy, you can turn on the happy tracks, the ones that lift you up and when you’re sad or anxious you can choose those songs assigned for those feelings too. It just meant you could tailor your music listening to your current mental state and that was something purposeful and important to me.
This album almost killed me emotionally because I really had to dig deep into my mental health problems to get the songs done right. Alike to how a method actor goes into character to get the part right, for me when I’m writing songs that have a specific emotion or a specific topic, I’ve always gone back to times in my life where things made me feel that emotion or gone back to the situation that hurt me in my head, so I can truly grasp that emotion for the song. So that people can FEEL what I’m saying, not just hear it, and feel something too. The single track ‘Fantasy Land’, for example, was based around something my ex said to me about me living in a fantasy world and not in the real world, not seeing the world how it really is but how I want it to be. So I wrote a song about it and I felt those words because they were true.
During the recording process of ‘The Magic Of A Lunatic’ you documented it heavily with studio report videos, daily updates via social media, images of the journey from Sheffield to London and were even as honest as recording a video for the fans on the day you had writers block and deemed that particular journey a wasted effort – was this process cathartic? How did your fans react to this and can you describe that gruelling journey that you had truly committed to doing and often did weekly?
It was absolutely cathartic. Needed. It was important for me that people saw what goes on behind the making of an album. It isn’t just sitting in an expensive lounge with an engineer and magic just falling out, it’s a real JOURNEY. Some day’s awesome things come out of you and you write exactly what you planned to write, some days things come out that were unintentional and different to what you planned but awesome anyway, some days shit comes out and no matter how much you go back and rewrite, add, subtract, nothing comes out. Those days were the hardest – and there were a few- because I got frustrated with myself. It wasn’t just the fact that the day was wasted and nothing came out, it was the fact that I’d have to book another studio day to make up for it which was more time and travelling and money and another week closer to deadline. It was a lot of pressure I put on myself to get it perfect every time but, of course, life isn’t like that so I wanted to document and show people that so they truly knew that everything I had was going into the making of this album. That I really cared about it being right and that I was emotionally attached to it. Fans were really supportive of that and it actually brought us closer together; sort of bridging the gap between artist and fan. They saw I was a real person, with real emotions and real flaws. I really like that with social media you are able to see your favourite artists up, close and personal like that and it makes it so much easier to root for someone when you can see how much they really want it and that they really live this, not just talk.
‘The Magic Of A Lunatic’ was the result of an intense crowd funding campaign where you literally detailed every spend, every perk, every item that was paid for down to the penny to give the donators peace of mind that every pound was being used to help make this record – can you describe the campaign from its idea to the reality and is this a route you would take again for a future release?
The reality is that it cost a lot more to make this album than was raised! We made SO much over target which was absolutely amazing and I can’t thank people enough but of course as the campaign money went up, I added more perks and more merch which obviously needed paying for, and the more people that pledged meant the postage bill went up (and, annoyingly, the postage money was lumped in with the total sum you saw so that was always going to have to be taken out) and obviously things like my travel to and from the studio and extra days in the studio. Mixing and mastering costs, artwork costs, even down to paying someone to put the album booklet together. I wanted people to grasp how much this actually costs. People often ask artists “When you putting new music out?” without realising that each song to make is a cost of its own and it’s not just a case of writing and recording it in your bedroom in 5 minutes and putting it out. If you want it done properly, it takes time. Even more so with electronic music that is written on a computer; you need a proper studio with proper equipment, an engineer there to help you and you have to pay him for his time, you know. And he has to mix it down for you. Then, if you want the best sound, someone else then has to master the track. It’s a lot of work that goes into it. And the campaign was great to allow people to not only see the whole process but to understand how it all works. That’s why I made little videos in the studio too, showing the whole music making process on Logic. It’s a nice little quirk to allow people to get behind the scenes glimpses like that and I was all too happy to share that.
Tell us about the artwork concept for ‘The Magic Of A Lunatic’ – who designed it and what does the final art concept mean to you?
Ellen Heald was the beautifully talented artist who designed it. I asked her for essentially a picture of me, cross-legged, sat alone in my room, with pills around me to represent medication and self-medication to go with the mental health theme, and surrounded by magical bubbles depicting the way I live in my own world where nothing is real to others but absolutely real to me. I think it summed up the album incredibly well and I am honoured Ellen could be a part of it. She was really on board with my ideas and was really laid back and helpful throughout the designing process. Whenever she sent me things I wasn’t fully happy with, she just fixed them according to what I was after without a problem. Really lovely girl. (She makes stunning art prints available on her website so I definitely recommend people go buy some!)
I’m lucky enough to have had worked with truly amazing artists for the last 3 of my albums. I always use someone different each time so that each album has a different style and I think I’ll always have art as my front cover instead of, say, a picture of me, because it adds my love to art and creative people to the albums too!
You have currently been putting on live shows with yourself at the helm and Harry on guitar, there is often no drummer and instead is replaced by a machine – how has this hindered your live sound and what are your current desires for a live set up?
I hate having no drummer. I make jokes about it online because it’s my defence mechanism, but I feel completely hindered without a live drummer. People tell me I don’t need one and, it’s not that I think I need one, frankly I could do the whole show alone to backing track and, I think, still put on a good show, BUT I like having live instruments to create a sound that it different than on the CD. It means you get one experience digitally at home and another experience live. Harry has evolved so much since he joined PA. He has really grown in confidence and I see him becoming more and more a character on stage with every show we do. I know he’s in it for all the right reasons and I know he sees my vision and wants to be a part of it, rather than someone who just wants to be famous or “seen”.
He’s also become a really good friend and because of our friendship, we always have fun. He also respects me as the captain of the ship too and he always knows I’ve got my shit together, even in times of stress, and he trusts me to get things done. So we have a very tight and awesome relationship. I’ve had a lot of problems with drummers; I’ve had 6 of them in 5 years. I hate being almost known for going through them but the truth is I just haven’t found the right one yet. The one who gets it. So many people are in the music industry for the wrong reasons. Hey, let me give you some truth right now. Music is NOT a lucrative business. You rarely get paid what you’re worth; sometimes you don’t get paid at all. Sometimes you’re lucky to get your travel expenses covered. If you’re in the music industry to get paid you’re in the wrong business. 6 years into making music and doing live shows and I am personally yet to take home a wage. It doesn’t work like that. All money earned goes back into the band. How do people think sold out merch gets restocked? Or how you get from city to city? Maybe you’ve rented a tour van and you have to pay for the hiring itself plus the petrol. You need new equipment, it’s got to be paid for. Studio time. It all costs money. And that’s where band money goes. Not into my pocket, into the band. How else will we grow? Some people we’ve had in the band in the past haven’t got that. They’ve been in it for the wrong reasons. Harry is in the band because he just wants to play music, to be on stage, to be part of something. And that’s what I want from whoever else is in the band too. So I’m looking for a new drummer, of course, but it has to be the RIGHT drummer. Who is in it for those reasons! I mean, this is my baby after all. I can’t just put it in the hands of any old bastard who doesn’t get what I’m trying to achieve. I want to make it, whatever that means. And we can only get there with the right crew on board.
You are an incredibly open honest and at times scarily in your face person that’s brazen enough to live how you want – whether it’s a recording from a night out your attending with crazy fun energy or a recording of you in your pyjamas with no makeup crying from your bed on a day you haven’t been able to muster energy to move – this on screen relationship you have with your fans – how is it received by them?
I love that “scarily in your face”. Fuck yeah I am! Well, I mean, underneath it all, I’m human. I’ve always been a really honest and straight to the point, no filter person. So many people in my family are manipulative, saying things behind your back, scheming, hypocritical, FAKE people and I saw that my whole life and just utterly despised it. I never saw the point in being anything other than bluntly who you are and yet so many people, not just in my family but in the world, are anything but. How many hearts would be saved from being broken if people were honest about how they feel? You could save yourself – and someone else- from a really long drawn out suffering by just being truthful there and then. I never understood lying. Misleading people. Being inevitably selfish.
Not everyone gets to be who they are without a problem arising. Some people are oppressed. I know that. When I was younger I lived in an oppressively religious household with my mum and stepdad who basically told me that I had to be the way they wanted, stuck in a little box of “Be good and keep your mouth shut” and I was constantly in trouble because I refused to do so. My siblings did what they had to to have an easy life and I don’t judge them for that, it was certainly easier to keep on the good side of them than defy them, but I just couldn’t accept that being myself the way I truly was, was wrong. They told us we couldn’t dress a certain way, listen to certain music, have certain friends, say or think certain things. They wanted us to be seen and not heard. I mean this woman still thinks that there is no such thing as mental illness, that it is simply the devil possessing you… When they would take us to church and tell everyone what a happy family we were I would say “Err no ,actually we’re not” and my mother would give me these looks like I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU WENT AGAINST THE HYPOCRISY PLAN, but like I say, I never understood being false and, for all my faults, I was – and still am – unapologetically myself.
And I like to think that fans can see me being that and apply it to their own lives. If I’ve done anything, I would hope it is that I have helped people to be themselves, to live their real truth, whoever the fuck you are. BE IT.
I know many of your fans suffer with crippling anxiety, depression and a sense of low being – I know this from first-hand experience as well as reading the comments and outpour they show on your social media and at shows I have attended personally – do you feel this approach has bonded you and helped in more ways than a more closed off or repressed relationship would have?
I do have a lot of fans who suffer with these kinds of things. People with mental health issues, with gender and sexuality issues, with family issues. I like to think I have all the odd jobs in my little army and I couldn’t be happier with that. Means we can all help each other. Often when I put posts up about mental health it inspires others and I never thought I could be someone to do that. Like I say, as a child I was oppressed and I had no friends and I was bullied at school and at home. I spent the entirety of my childhood alone so I get it man. When these kids are telling me stories of what they’re going through, I’ve lived it too. We all feel unwanted and ugly and lonely and like the only person in the world who suffers, but by all talking this way, through music, through the Crackhead Army, through social media, we can all really feel better, even more a moment. It’s nice to know you’re not alone and they have given me such a sense of comfort and often taken away a lot of that sense of loneliness just by being here for me. And I know I’ve been there for them too. I never imagined that my music could bring people who suffer together but amazingly, it has. And I’m honoured. At shows I see them all hanging out and meeting up after getting to know each other on Facebook through the group or band page and I’m chuffed to pieces that it’s all love and all positivity coming out of this. Cos it’s a nice change from feeling negative by myself isn’t it?!
You are a touring machine and despite recently having had your own headline gigs the majority of the year have been as support for a wide variety of bands that cover a wide spectrum of genres. This is a massive positive as it means you are billed on an electric mix of shows all over the country are never really pigeonholed – but being a band who then relies on the local crowd that night – how does it make you feel knowing you have to sometimes truly rely on the local crowd that night? And what do you consider ‘band etiquette’ for the guys who are billed on the same line-up as you?
I love that Pretty Addicted doesn’t fit into a specific genre. Means we can play all sorts of line ups with all sorts of bands. I like to think we could be the new Prodigy in the sense that everyone likes The Prodigy man, whether you’re a massive Goth or a proper chav! I like to think that we have that capability to have people from all walks of life digging our stuff. Because it is so eclectic it means we can stand out for the right and wrong reasons, and both excite me!
Band etiquette is a term I use often. Where to begin, man! I wrote a whole post on this once. More and more I am saddened by the lack of effort by other bands. I feel like half of them are not even really serious. Like, do you want this or not? If you’re on someone’s bill as a support, there are rules. You show up to sound check on time, you don’t keep other bands waiting, you make friends with the sound man, you are friendly and polite to everyone in the industry you meet that night, you’re in the room for doors, you stay to watch all the bands on the line up, you bring people to the show because you’ve promoted the shit out of the gig and the list goes on… You wouldn’t believe how few bands do this. It’s a sham. Not being funny, but how do you expect to get booked again if you don’t stay for the band who booked you? You have work or school tomorrow? Cool, arrange a way home in advance. It isn’t hard. Like, I’m sort of done being polite about this. I wouldn’t dream of leaving before the headline band if I was supporting them. Even if you somehow miss your train or the worst happens and you’re stuck in a city overnight, if they book you again then for me it was worth it. I’m always thinking about the best thing for the band. Does this help or hinder us? Always, always network. Make sure everyone in the room knows your name and what band you’re with. Put on a killer show. Have lots of merch ready to sell. Thank the headline band for having you whilst you’re on stage. Mention the other bands, they’ll like you for it. The music industry is a business, whether you want to accept that or not, and for me the ones who don’t play the game get left behind. Think about how much you want this. Are you in a band for the right reasons? Are you after fame or money or sex or to meet famous people? Then you’re not going to make it, dude. It’s hard work and perseverance, and time, and money spent, and doing the really shit gigs the same exact way you do the really great gigs, it’s putting in your diligence, it’s doing the free shows for a while, it’s grafting. Some people don’t get that at all.
The alternative music scene is vast and an ocean of creativity and yet can sometimes feel more like a stagnant pond – what is your personal opinion on the current music scene, what do you think the future holds for it and where do you feel Pretty Addicted will fit into it?
Alternative music I feel is a bit weird at the moment because bands are splitting up left, right and centre and things are a little bit stale in parts. I feel like the excitement needs to come back in. With so many long standing bands like Slipknot and Korn and Marilyn Manson all quite a bit older now, where are the new breeds? Is it me or are there a lot less up and coming bands than there was like 10 years ago? Maybe the passion goes because people realise it’s really hard to make it, I don’t know, but more have split up in the last few years than I’ve seen before. But hey, let’s not look too much at the negative. There ARE some really good bands currently and all different genres. Smaller festivals are doing really well at the moment showcasing smaller and mid-level bands and for me, that’s where the most energy is at the moment. These hungry DIY bands who all put on great shows and have great fanbases. Hopefully the future is these bands making it even higher up the chain. I’m not sure how likely it is for bands to be as big as Slipknot anymore because the gap between mid-level and super famous seems to be larger than ever, but as long as these bands keep moving up the ladder I’m happy to see music doing that. End of the day, for most of us it’s not about being famous, being big means you get to show your music to more and more people and play cooler and cooler shows in epic places, and that’s really the dream.
I like to think that, with the right belief from fans, promoters, bookers and venues, Pretty Addicted has the capability to play on any type of line up, from Download to Creamfields. And I mean that. We’ve got just the right balance between dance music and alternative music – especially live- for us to keep any type of audience entertained. I really believe that. You HAVE to believe that, to believe in yourself, to get anywhere in any area of life. I’m doing it, just watch me.
It is New Year’s Eve in just a few hours we will be saying goodbye to 2017 and embracing 2018. What are your goals for the next twelve months? And can you summarise 2017?
GOOD FUCKING RIDDANCE to 2017. May you die a horrible death at midnight.
2018 is going to be MY year! The Year of the Crackheads! I plan to fill the year with so many Pretty Addicted gigs to really up our presence. I’ve already booked 15 so far and, I’m telling you, there’s going to be so many I won’t know what to do with myself! Ha-ha. We’re doing 2 festivals so far as well next year. Amplified festival which we’re really excited for, and the other we haven’t been announced yet, but it’s going to be awesome!
Next year I’m going to be on a mad positive vibe so imagine what I can do with PA when I’m positive after what I did with it feeling negative this year! I’d get on the Crackhead train if I were you, it’s going to be a fuckin ride!
You affectionately call your devoted fans ‘crackheads’ what does this army mean to you? Do you have a message for them?
I love this story. When I first started the band with former member Ben, his girlfriend at the time said we should call our fans Crackheads cos you’d have to be on crack to like it! Ha-ha! And I loved it! I also use it as a term of endearment. Like when you call your mates “dickheads”. “I love you, you dickhead”, that’s what Crackheads are. We’re all mental cases, crazy enough to like this music, but we’re awesome. In this crazy Pretty Addicted circus! I love all you bastards like you wouldn’t believe! THANK YOU for being with me on this journey, especially this year when I wasn’t going through my best time. You all stuck by me and, in fact, our army grew! I’m chuffed to bits.
Here is your chance to conclude this interview with a few final choice words to talk about anything you would like…..
Make 2018 YOUR year. I’m going to do the same. Leave 2017 where it belongs. Make amends with that person you have wanted to fix things with, dump that loser who won’t return your phone call, do the thing you’ve been putting off, plan a trip with your friends, clean your house and make your surroundings fresh, constantly create, go veggie because animals are awesome and it makes me sad that people eat them, tell that motherfucker how you really feel, stand up for yourself, stand up for what you believe and, of course, I couldn’t end his without saying……