Renegades star Grant Nicholas faces echo from the past - AUDIO

IT was a noble idea. Take two thirds of one of the UK's biggest rock bands and attempt to start again semi-discreetly under a new name.

The trouble is, when you've a fanbase as loyal as Feeder, word was swiftly going to get out that Renegades was almost the same act playing new songs.

Oddly, singer/writer/guitarist Grant Nicholas seems disappointed his new outfit has taken off quite as quickly as it has.

"It's doing really well and it is a bit bigger than I wanted it to be," he says ahead of playing Sheffield's Leadmill on April 18.

"I wanted it to be in tiny clubs but the first tour was successful so promoters wanted this bigger. I don't want it to be 'normal Feeder', I want it to build up to that. That was the point."

Grant describes Renegades as a band within Feeder, its sound reminiscent of the harder, raw edge when he started Feeder 18 years ago.

"This is really a temporary thing, to get out there and not have to do the usual hits. Some of our diehard fans wouldn't have minded so much because hopefully they would have been happy enough the stuff was rocking, but when you go and see a band and they don't play any singles you feel a little short-changed and I was worried people would feel that.

"At the same time we knew they would make the Feeder connection so we decided to put a couple of really old Feeder songs in each night.

"At the moment things are happening in a natural way, but it's evolving. Renegades is still low key and we're taking one step at a time."

Ticket-holders for the current tour get a copy of the new EP featuring Sentimental and Home, among other songs, some of the hardest music Grant and bassist Taka Hirose have made.

The decision to give Feeder a 'break' came when they completed their contract with the Echo label upon releasing Silent Cry. Previously home to Babybird and Moloko, it dissolved into EMI and Feeder were homeless.

"It was a shame," Grant says of Echo's demise. "Our deal was six albums, we fulfilled the contract and then they folded so they're locked away in a vault somewhere.

"We were their longest-signed band, but our last album didn't get much of a chance as Echo was a sinking ship. The whole thing came to a grinding halt and lot of people were being laid off, which is something we couldn't do anything about. There wasn't much of a label left and we tried to get off but we couldn't."

Ever the realists, Grant and Taka took a step back from a career boasting numerous hits, millions of albums sales, sold out tours and festival headline shows. After the relative security of a record deal the future offered challenges.

"Echo was just a vessel for us to put out music and these days there's so many different ways you can do it," says Grant, who still opted to set-up a label for Renegades music.

"For the moment we're doing it the old school way. It's tough because you've got to pay for everything, but it gives us more control and means we don't have to compromise at all, which is quite selfish but you've got to selfish to be in a band. Although Echo wasn't a big machine it was still a machine that helped us a lot. Now we're having to do it all ourselves but we can hand-pick a really strong team around us."

And that included their sticks man – Yorkshireman Mark Richardson left when Skunk Anansie reformed to be replaced by Karl Brazil, a pop session drummer with a point to prove.

"I'm not going to slag off Mark because I'm not that sort of guy," says Grant, "but there were things about him I didn't get on with and things about the way we worked as a band he found very different. There wasn't the chemistry between us.

"Sometimes your personalities don't click as well as you think but he was a natural choice after Jon Lee passed away. We didn't really look around and get to know each other properly. We're very different people. He's a great drummer and I had a great time with him, but it had run it's course.

"The Skunk Anansie thing came along and we knew it was going to happen at some point because everyone does it. Mark wanted to do both, to be fair to him, but I found that unacceptable. We saw him as a full-time member and it just wouldn't have worked."

And while his replacement is from a pop background, Renegades music has shifted the Feeder fellas away from their poppier leanings; of the 30 songs Grant's written, those out there reveal a more instinctive, less reflective beast that is still melodic but kicks a lot harder.

"The heavy side of Feeder never really went away," says Grant. "But things change around you; you have some success with a song and the label puts pressure on you to copy that; Buck Rogers part two. Echo weren't that cut-throat but everyone wants commercial success because they make money.

"With this we just felt really free to do what we wanted to do. It was just natural to get back to the big guitars and slightly heavier side. It's still melodic and there's still some mellow moments, but I definitely don't want to dilute the album this time by trying to keep everybody happy because it'll take away what this record's meant to be about."

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