Failure in the 90s

After that epic Tool concert at the Bill Graham, we caught up with opening band Failure to get the scoop on their own comeback and future exploits. They’ll be headlining two nights back-to-back this week, Wednesday and Thursday, at the Great American Music Hall. Here’s our interview with drummer Kellii Scott.

Wow! Failure is back! All the 90’s nerds are kind of going crazy right now. I saw you play in San Francisco with Tool for the first time and that was really cool.
Oh yeah! That was a great show! We did the two nights at the Bill Graham.

Yeah, I was there for the second night.
Mhm. Had you seen us before?

I’d never seen you before and I knew you toured with Tool a lot in the 90’s and I thought “Wow! It’s all coming back.”
Yeah, we were actually quite pleased when they asked us if we could come out and join them on those shows, especially since we’re just getting this all back up and running, it only seemed fitting for our first outing to be with those guys. Everything went really great. Great crowd. The crowds today were much more civil than I seem to recall them being back in the day.

Yeah! I saw only two mosh pits and that was strange. I thought there would be more. That’s very cool. So, where have you guys toured? How has it been going? Is it hectic?
No no no, it’s been pretty light actually. We started out with that first show here in Los Angeles at the El Rey and then we just jumped out with the guys from Tool, and that was only, I think like nine shows. The two in San Francisco, Reno, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Austin, Houston, Fresno, and San Diego.

OK, that’s quite a lot of major cities there.
Yeah, the first half of it we did in a little splitter and then the Texas shows and the Phoenix shows. We flew out to all of those shows. But now we had a couple weeks off, and now we’re back to rehearsals, putting together our own show which is gonna be pretty cool. It’s gonna be super long. It’s just going to be us. We’re not taking any opening bands. And the first show of our actual tour will be there, in San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall.

Yeah, I know where that is. Awesome!
Yeah, we’re doing two nights there. It’s the 14th and 15th of May.

Excellent. I’ll have to check that out, definitely.
It’s gonna be cool. I’m really looking forward to it. We’re doing more of our own set, so it’ll be somewhere around 2 hours. 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Are you going to be playing most of your songs off of Fantastic Planet or are you going from Comfort and Magnified as well?
We’re playing a lot of songs from Fantastic Planet. I think we’re playing maybe four to five songs from Magnified and I think two or three from Comfort. And we’re gonna throw in some extra surprises here and there for people.

New material?
Yeah… maybe. Well, it’ll be new to us. We’re definitely playing some stuff we haven’t played on tour before. But I don’t want to give away the surprise. That’s why everybody’s got to come out to the show.

I won’t push and prod too much then.
Yeah, we’ve been reading social media a little bit and we’re throwing in some things that seem like a good portion of people would like to hear that they’ve never heard us do before.

Awesome. That’s excellent. Speaking of the people, I was gonna ask, have you noticed any difference in your fan base vs that of the 90’s, or does there seem to be purely a cult following?
I would say it’s definitely a cult following thing. There’s definitely like some die hards. There’s definitely some people more our age that would come to see us in the 90’s, but there’s also a large portion of the crowd that are people who have never seen us play before like under the age of 30, which I think we all found quite surprising. That was the one thing that happened when we did the LA show that we weren’t even expecting at all. That hadn’t even dawned on us that there would be so many younger people there that hadn’t seen us play before. It was kind of bewildering. It was awesome but really strange at the same time.

Wow. Yeah. Definitely. I’m sure everyone who went out to see Tool were like “Oh! I remember these guys” and all of a sudden you have all these new fans.
Yeah, yeah. I think we also picked up some of Tool’s newer fans because a large portion of those crowds had also already sold out all of those shows before we were even added to the bill. I think we were added to the bill a week before the shows started. So there weren’t a whole lot of people who knew they were buying tickets to see us play.

I know you have a lot of younger fans now, and with the age of internet and with new technology and ways of streaming and ways to get music other than just going to the record store, whether it be legal or illegal, do you think that this new streaming culture will help you gain exposure, or do you think it would hurt your record sales?
Well, I can’t really speak to record sales because we’ve never really had them. Even back in the day. I fully embrace all the newer technology, the social media, I think it’s great. I think it’s really really great. I mean it can’t do anything but spread the word more, and I mean, I’m pretty certain that all the new people that are showing up to our shows are totally a result of that. People just file sharing, I mean our records haven’t really been in stores in like 17 years. It’s not like you can go down the street and buy one of our records. You can get it off of iTunes and stuff, but I would guess that at least 70% of anyone who’s into us today got into us because they were turned on to us from a friend or internet source.

That’s actually surprising because I was going to go down to my record store today and look for Fantastic Planet, but now that you told me this, wow, I did not know that you weren’t actually selling this.
Yeah, I mean, back in the day, the record label only made a certain number of copies and our records didn’t sell all that well, so if you found a copy, that copy’s been sitting there since back then. Other than that, our back catalog was purchased from Warner Brothers and that company has decided to put out vinyl of each one of the records. Like over the last three years, they’ve managed to get vinyl copies of each one, but even those were only a thousand copies. If you were to find our stuff, you would have to get it somewhere off of the web.

So are you guys kind of going back on to a record label, or are you going to release new albums and start selling them? I mean I know you’re probably producing on your own.
We’re not sure yet. This whole thing kind of got back together by us writing and recording some new material, and we were just going to do that, but then all these other interests started popping up, and now we’re kind of in full fledged, we’re-a-band- again-and-touring-around mode. And I think we’re going to continue to write and record some more stuff and just kind of see what unfolds as we get further along in this adventure. We’re still working on stuff, like we’re nowhere near done with having a new record finished, but hopefully some opportunities will present themselves as we get closer to that over the end of the year and the beginning of next year.

I definitely look forward to your pursuits. I know you were there for the most part for the writing of Magnified and Fantastic Planet as the drummer. But out of all the albums, do you have a favorite, musically speaking?
They’re each so different from one another. I would have to say that Fantastic Planet probably is my favorite. Just because it was our last record and I felt that we were able to achieve a sonic goal. Finally, we had a record that sounded the way it was supposed to sound. And that also seems to be the one that has the most exposure out of all the records. And there’s so many songs on there. I mean there’s as many songs on that record as there are on almost the first two records combined. So it’s kind of like two records. But I would have to say that, only in the sense that all the songs are really flushed out and really finished. And I think that we just managed to get it right on that record. The other records kind of had a struggle and natural progression towards—it doesn’t sound quite like we hear ourselves. Once we got a little closer, and Fantastic Planet pretty much summed it all up, what we were going for. I still have a blast playing live. I love playing the stuff off Comfort and Magnified just as much as the stuff off of Fantastic Planet.

kellii scott

In the past, you were described in various news outlets as kind of a grunge off shoot, but you weren’t really grunge, right?
No, not at all. We’re all serious about what we bring to this band. Grunge seemed, I don’t want to put it down, or beneath us, it seemed a lot lazier than what we were trying to achieve. Much more like relaxed and sort of like: throw it out there and see what happens. Whereas our stuff was very labored. A lot of thought and energy and work went into what we were doing.

It almost feels progressive in a way.
It sort of is progressive, especially as a progression from the grunge stuff that was going on at the time. You know I’m not really sure what it is. Some people call it space rock. I think that could be a little closer of a description. But when I think of the word space, I don’t necessarily think of outer space, I think of the space in the music. We definitely achieved a lot of spatial—um… oh what’s the word I’m looking for… you know what I mean.

Yes, well yeah. I think so. If you mean like spatial presence, then yeah. If it’s difficult to classify yourselves genre-wise, what are your influences as a band?
I think the normal stuff. We all really like the 80’s stuff, like Cars and The Cure. Greg really likes Japan a lot. And we definitely dig Radiohead. I mean back then when we were writing that music, Radiohead was just kind of appearing on the music scene. I like a lot of 70’s rock stuff also, like I grew up on Zeppelin and AC/DC and Rush. You know, kind of a hodge podge, like I loved everything from George Michael to David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Killing Joke. I think that’s definitely representative in our music too. It definitely seems like we have a very eclectic taste in music and sensibility.

Much more than just standard grunge, right?
Yeah. I think if we only listened to rock music, our stuff would sound a lot more like grunge.

Yeah. Definitely. Well, we’re coming into the end of the interview. And again, you don’t have to answer, but what can we expect from Failure in the coming years. A new album, more surprises, not gonna tell?
Well, first we’re gonna do this 28 date tour, which is a lot considering we haven’t’ played music together in 17 years. But then we’re definitely gonna come back and start to put some of our business structure in place as far as finding a home for our record and figuring out how we want to move forward with that. There will definitely be a new record. And you know, some more tours. You know, the usual: lots of great tours, lots of good times and a lot more music.

I look forward to it, most definitely.
And hopefully we’ll see you at that San Francisco show, one of the two of them.

Definitely! I did not even know that you were touring there. So I’m happy I have this information.
Yeah, it’s May 14th and 15th at the Great American Music Hall.

I will look you up. Do you have any last words for your listeners? Words of wisdom? Anything you’d like to impart?
You know, I would. Personally, I would like to thank anyone who may be reading or listening for continuing to care about the band and our music all these years. I mean it really really feels great. It’s just been amazing coming back and playing these few shows. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like when we start up this tour, but it’s pretty amazing.

Awesome! Alright, well that was Kellii Scott with Failure. They’ll be touring May 14th and 15th at the Great American Music Hall.
And you can send people to our Failure Band Facebook Page also. They’ll be able to get all the upcoming information.

There you have it! Thank you Kellii!
Thank you too! Have a great evening.

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