Words by Major Tom.
Photography © Robert Gil. 'All The New Ends' EP © Amusement Parks On Fire, Saint Marie Records.
Sometimes, excellence juts out from the landscape like a Phoenix. You know it when you see or hear it. Art is not quantifiable. It's not about the charts, but a feeling in the individual. It's about possibly changing people, making them feel understood, and being part of something bigger, connecting them to the artist or performer.
The British rock band, Amusement Parks on Fire, was brought to life by Michael Feerick in 2004. What began as the solo project, Michael pulled a Prince, and wrote and performed all the instruments for the self-titled debut album. He recorded 9 songs on a small budget with friend and future band mate, Daniel Knowles, engineering the sessions. The self-titled debut album, was released on Invada Records, the label run by Portishead's Geoff Barrow in 2005.
NME described him as a 'hedonistic teenage genius', while Rough Trade reviewed his subsequent singles as showcasing 'other dimensions to APOF's otherworldly sound.'
Although they recorded dynamite product in the UK, Iceland, and Los Angeles, toured extensively, and received rave reviews, the last straw was when their van was broken into and cleaned out, and their passports were also stolen, stranding them in Bologna. They were eventually forced to cancel everything, and subsequently went into hiding for 88 months. But, like a Phoenix, they've risen from the ashes to fight and create another day. Their acclaimed 2009 LP 'Road Eyes', produced by Michael Patterson (Beck, NIN) and Nicolas Jodoin (Arcade Fire, BRMC), has now officially been reprinted via Saint Marie Records as a 'deluxe' edition, appended with a second disc of nine never-before released cuts and curios. For the first time the complete codex will be issued on double-vinyl, CD and digital formats.
In 2004 you wrote, played all the instruments, and recorded 9 songs for the self-titled debut album, Amusement Parks on Fire. What inspired you to take this on all your own?
Well, it wasn't DIY really. My friend and later band mate Dan recorded it. Friends played bits and pieces and provided moral support. I guess I approached it as a solo-project initially, as it was the quickest and easiest way to get the thing recorded. At the time, I hadn't thought at all about playing it live, which allowed me certain creative freedoms.
How old were you and what kind of work were you doing, in order to pay out an album's worth of studio time?
I was 18 or 19 and positively unemployed. It wasn't in any way self-funded. I'd met a music lawyer, who later became our manager for a time, and he helped me get some cash from a few labels to do some demos. The process dragged and felt kind of depressingly beside-the-point, so he eventually funded a few weeks in a studio himself to make a whole album, bless him.
And how did you come up with the name?
It was originally part of a stream-of-consciousness lyric from the song that ended up becoming 'Eighty Eight', which felt weird as a phrase being sung in a pseudo-meaningful way, but kind of pleasingly self-grandising as a band name at the time, at least. Had I known I'd still be talking about it 14-odd years later I would have given it more thought. It's too fucking long for a start.
Do you have any classical music training?
Ha, no. I had no training. A few drum lessons at school and things like that. Certainly no formal, classical training or anything. That world seemed very inaccessible and stuffy when I was that age. I was fascinated by the relative scope of compositional form orchestral composers were seemingly allowed, but wasn’t into the rules and regulations the performers were expected to adhere to. That’s why I gravitated towards the relative freedom of the rock n' roll approach, I suppose.
Your second album release ‘Out Of The Angeles’, was mostly recorded in the UK, and then you and your band went to Iceland for a month to finish it, were you guys having a Bjork moment ?
I think you may be referring to our tactically tongue-in-cheek press release, but yeah there is truth to all that. It was less of an artistic choice and more of a semi-accidental set of circumstances. I suppose we were having a Björk moment in a geographical sense, yes. I guess in some respect I see the making of an album as an adventure and the finished product as a diary. When I had it written, Iceland seemed as suitable place as any to bring it to fruition. The studio had all the right gear in it. I hadn't thought about the lack of sunlight in the dead of winter or how prohibitively expensive sustenance would be.
Do you have any thoughts on what you would change or do differently throughout your career?
No, not really. To do so would be to imagine a level of control that we would never have had in any theoretical timeline. I'm philosophical about it. It is what it is. I’d rather people stumble upon this music and it be special to them than have it rammed down their throats, as is the case with any really high-profile bands. We’ve had more luck in that regard than we might have rightfully expected.
In addition to your second album, you put out a series of limited edition 12" EPs. Do you go with vinyl to more accurately get your studio sound out to the public?
Not so much getting the studio sound out there as the very intent of the music, or something. I was obsessed with my dad’s prog-rock records growing up, and still think of albums in those terms, two distinct sides with something of an abstract narrative. I thought of those 12”s as concept EP’s, or mini-albums expanding on the themes of the lead track. I figured that would be more substantial than just having a couple of pointless remixes on there or whatever.
In 2009, you went to L.A. to make 'Road Eyes', what was that like?
I guess a big part of that move was that it was seemingly the exact opposite of the previous record. We wanted to overhaul our approach. We’d isolated ourselves and been willfully self-indulgent on the previous album, let that bleed into it. For this one, we worked with producers for the first time, who were pushing us from the start. We have a lot of dear friends in Los Angeles too, so it became home very quickly. Still is in many respects. So we had our pals to inspire us.
Did you initially want the 'Road Eyes' project to be a much longer volume of work?
Yeah, for a while when I was writing it I thought it would be a double-album. But a friend rightly pointed out that in this day-and-age barely anyone would listen to the whole thing. Then, as we were recording and the album was coming together, it felt like it should be even more concise, focused. We left out a lot of material that I felt was just as strong, and was thematically part of the album, but we decided didn’t fit the final sequence and feel. This ‘deluxe’ version is just about definitive. We even included a couple of demos, with alternate structures etc, for good measure.
You were off the grid for 88 months, and now you've released a new 7” vinyl single ‘Our Goal To Realise’ via Saint Marie Records. Also, you have a ‘All The New Ends’ EP Release Show coming up in Paris on April 13th. There's a further extended-play 12" disc 'An Archaea’, and more live 2018 appearances happening. Fill us in on all the details?
Yeah, after the last album, and the brief supporting tour of the US, it felt like we needed a break, and 88 months ended up being the correct amount of time to disappear. When it came to releasing the first material thereafter, 'Our Goal To Realise' seemed to fit perfectly with that notion, meditating on the ongoing quest to find some reason to do anything at all, in a cold reality with no rhyme or reason to speak of. 'All The New Ends' sees us attempt to come to terms with the past and find hope in our future. We will indeed also tour Europe as it's released on Friday 13th April with another run later in the year. 'An Archaea' is the name of the next album.