The Truly Fake Sound of Progress
by Pete Crigler
A couple of years ago, myself and millions of others were fans of a rock band out of England called Lostprophets. This was back in 2004 and my friends and I were in high school and we listened to a lot of Slipknot, Taproot and Thursday. Cut to ten years later, Lostprophets ended abruptly due to the despicable and repulsive actions of one member and from the ashes have come No Devotion. What happened during those ten years?
I first became aware of Lostprophets around 2002 while watching M2, the sister channel of MTV. One day a video came on for a song called "The Fake Sound of Progress." It was catchy, it had a DJ but no rapping and I found it really interesting. I found out they were from Wales and had already put out their debut album also called thefakesoundofprogress. The first single, "Shinobi vs. Dragon Ninja" failed on impact in America but launched the band to success across Europe.
Cut to 2004 and the band finally released their long-awaited sophomore release, Start Something. With a massive push in America thanks to the very cool and catchy single "Last Train Home," the band finally blew up in America and hit the road hard, touring in support. The follow-up single "Make a Move" became a modest hit on American rock radio and the band wound up the year with a gold record and they felt like they were on top of the world.
By 2006, I was entering my junior year of college and my musical taste had shifted dramatically. During this time, Lostprophets released their third record, Liberation Transmission. They also had a new drummer, Ilan Rubin, formerly of Denver Harbor. I vaguely remember hearing the first single "Rooftops" and not being too impressed. After that, I don't remember hearing anything more about the record. All I know is that it flopped and the singles didn't do much on American airwaves. From here, things got a bit murky for the band.
Over the next couple of years, the band went through some rocky times. The band continued recording, working on new music with producer John Feldmann, also of Goldfinger. But by the end of the sessions, the band were not pleased with the results and decided to scrap everything. Those tracks have not been released and probably won't see the light of day anytime soon. Drummer Ilan Rubin also left the band to join Nine Inch Nails and then Angels and Airwaves. They also lost their record deal with Columbia in America and went independent. After reorganizing, the band decided to produce the next record themselves and so bassist Stuart Richardson took over producing and by 2010, the record was finished and was going to be called The Betrayed.
The record was first released in Europe and did rather well, many critics seeing it as a back to basics record. Unfortunately, American audiences had to listen to the record on import or on YouTube as it was never officially released in this country. It had some decent material on it and at the time, I remember being disappointed about its lack of a U.S. release. Some months later, I happened to catch an acoustic show on some out of the way cable network where they played a bunch of material from the record. I recall being impressed with songs like "For He's a Jolly Good Felon" and "It's Not the End of the World, But I Can See It from Here." After the record wore out its welcome, the band went back to the studio to work on their fifth record.
By this time, the band had a new full-time drummer, Luke Johnson, formerly of Amen and the band had decamped to Los Angeles to work on the record with producer Ken Andrews, formerly of Failure. In 2012, the band finally signed a new American deal with the indie Fearless and prepared the release of Weapons. That summer, as the album was being released on American shores, the band hitched up with the Warped tour for the whole trek and worked hard reestablishing their U.S. fan base. A few singles were released here but none of them had the power to crack the airwaves, their brand of British rock having been usurped by Arctic Monkeys and Muse. After the tour was over, the band hit Europe hard and wrapped up the tour on November 14th in Wales and by the end of the year, they were preparing the release of the fourth single when disaster struck, in the worst way imaginable.
On December 19th 2012, it was announced that frontman Ian Watkins had been arrested and charged with some of the sickest shit anyone in the rock world had ever heard. I will spare everyone all the gory details but all the charges dealt with sex offenses against little children, including toddlers. British police had found mountains of evidence against him on his hard drive and had been watching over several people Watkins had met through chat rooms and message boards. The perverted deviancy of Watkins' mind was something that took the rock community by storm; no one could figure out where his predilection for children had come from. This was one of the sickest instances of pedophilia in music since Gary Glitter had gotten kicked out of Vietnam and Thailand for alleged sexual offenses. It was around this time that an interesting thing happened: on the day the news was brought out, I was listening to the local rock station out of Richmond and the DJ was reading the news of Watkins' arrest and "Last Train Home" was playing in the background while he was reading. After he had read the horrifying allegations, he stopped the song and said, "I can't even listen to this anymore." And that was the last time to date that I have heard a Lostprophets played on the radio.
Within a week of his incarceration, the band released a statement on their website and Facebook page that basically said that they were heartbroken by what had happened and would wait and see what would happen to Watkins before they made any judgments. All future tour dates were cancelled and the other band members went into complete isolation. As the months wore on and the allegations against Watkins grew more perverse and the evidence became more damning, it became all the more evident that he was probably guilty. By this point in time, I had deleted all the songs I had from the band off my computer and washed away any musical memories I'd had because in my opinion, their legacy had been forever tainted by one man's despicable sexual peccadillos. Many, many more people also felt the same way and the remaining members quickly realized this. Staying underground, leaving their website dormant except for the statement made in December of 2012, the band left Watkins to stew in jail while the British media skinned him alive.
Finally, in October of 2013 after almost a year of silence, the rest of the band made a final statement on Facebook announcing they were calling it quits as Lostprophets, saying they couldn't carry on knowing what Watkins had done. In the statement, they all said they had no idea what Watkins had been doing, all they knew was that he'd undergone a personality change and had become a serious drug addict, a disease they were attempting to help him overcome. After that statement was made, the band's main website was taken down and the members resumed their silence.
On December 18th 2013, Watkins was convicted in a London court and was sentenced to the maximum under British law, 29 years in prison. With that, his musical career ended and life as a registered sex offender began. The other band members stayed quiet until the beginning of 2014 when Geoff Rickly, former frontman for Thursday stated in an interview that the other members were working on a new project. He backed away from saying that he was their new frontman, he just stated that he would be releasing their new project on his record label, Collect. It was around this time that Watkins poked his head around again, trying to appeal his sentence to get it reduced. Fortunately, for the world, the appeal was subsequently denied by a higher court.
Then in July of 2014, it was announced that Rickly, had, in fact joined up with the other former members of Lostprophets to form a completely brand new band, dubbed No Devotion. The same day the band released their first single on iTunes. "Stay" is a very new wave inflected song, unlike anything either Lostprophets or Thursday had ever attempted in the past. The song became a fan favorite although several Internet trolls have stated that they miss Lostprophets and that Rickly can't compare as a singer to Watkins. There's really nothing that can be said about statements like that except, "Wow, I wonder what Gary Glitter's been up to lately?" It's at this point that you feel bad for people who have tattooed Watkins' lyrics and face on their bodies. A permanent mark of shame for someone who just loved the music maybe a bit too much.
In the end, the former members of Lostprophets have started the rebuilding process and maybe No Devotion will become bigger than the old band, maybe not. Guitarist Lee Gaze summed up the whole thing when asked in a 2014 interview with British paper The Guardian if he'll listen to Lostprophets again: "I can't. It's tainted, because he was the voice of the band, and it was his lyrics." The fact that these five guys have to rebuild their entire career because of one person's horribly perverse sexual depravity is, indeed one of the saddest tales to ever come out of the otherwise less decadent world of rock and roll.
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