Jayce Lewis is one of the finest new exponents of electronic rock. His tour with Combichrist at the end of July gave Jayce the chance to really engage a UK audience after finding success in India with hit single ‘Icon’. I interviewed the charismatic Welshman to find out more on supporting Gary Numan, stage-fright and his best friend… Darth Vader.
Your first hit ‘Icon’ exploded in the Indian scene before you had any success in the UK. That must have been a bizarre situation for you. How have you coped with fame as such?
At first it was really strange. It was both very surreal and a lot to take in very fast. A lot spun from that – obviously the BBC documentary. To be thrown in the deep end as fast as that and be expected to swim your way out was a bit worrying. Everybody has their dream and their goal, and they all have their own ideas of what you think it’s going to be. It’s quite well-known within the crew, my friends and my family that the fame thing that came very early on was quite freaky to be honest. I think you either embrace that or go very recluse and certainly I went quite recluse. I was finding that I wasn’t saying the right things and they were misprinting things as well, so it was quite a learning curve. We’re just heading up to three years now as a solo artist and it’s just been non-stop. I’m alright with it now – totally alright with it. It feels like it’s one big family on the road, whereas before, it felt like it was just me. The band that I had with me was all very new and very raw. I’m a lot more settled because it was so much to take in at the beginning.
Your popularity really started to get UK attention when you shared the stage with Gary Numan and he heralded you as one of the greatest support acts he’d ever seen warm up for him…
That’s just another thing to the crazy story of Jayce. I developed a good friendship with Gary and going out on tour with him – he didn’t know what I was like as an act and I’d never seen Gary before and I’m a fan of that era. So seeing him for the first time was when I was touring with him! The things he has said has just been really encouraging; it’s real and it’s none of this plastic bollocks. The industry’s hard enough as it is.
What kind of music will we find on a playlist on this tour bus?
It can range from Cannibal Corpse to Abba, from Mike Oldfield to The Prodigy, from Madonna to Fear Factory. I like classical music, death metal, dance music. I am sort of bringing that all together with my sound. I still don’t feel that it’s that different; I keep saying to myself ‘really, is it that different?’ But maybe I’m saying that because I’m pulling all the pieces together from other bands.
How did you get to support Combichrist?
We’ve got mutual friends. Rammstein is a good friend of theirs and a good friend of mine. I think my name had been brought up a lot to them via Christoph (Doom Schneider) from Rammstein and a couple of friends of ours, so it came about that way. I did my first headline show in the UK in Camden and it was sold-out and the agent for Combichrist was there and he said on that night, ‘you’re on tour with Combichrist, are you ready?’ And we were like ‘yeah man, we were born ready!’ [laughs] We have a very well-rehearsed team – I couldn’t do this without the crew I’ve got, to the level that it’s at.
We hear that one of your best friends is Darth Vader! Tell us how you came to know Dave Prowse so well?
He was my personal manager. He’s very good at handling media, excitement and all the financial stuff. And of course, having Darth Vader as your man who you shouldn’t mess with; they’d have to get through him to get to me. I felt like the bloody Emperor! Looking back on it now, it probably came across as a gimmick, but it was sincere genuine friendship between the pair of us. I met him at a convention, queued up in a line for hours asking him to sign an autograph and asked him to write no.1 drummer and he asked ‘oh you’re a drummer are you?’ We exchanged addresses and I sent him some of my music and from that, I went flying round the world meeting all these other stars. It was crazy. Someone’s definitely looking over me!
In terms of penning a tune and creating a melody, how do you go about the process?
It always starts with a drum beat or a guitar riff. The lyrics are much later. The first album I did – I was in a bad place when I wrote that album. I was a bit of a nervous wreck and it was the first time I’d really wrote a song from start to finish with vocals. It was a much different thing for me to try and write music like that. But the subject matter from the first album was a lot of realisations about myself and I wear my heart on my sleeve on that album. The next album is basically a big ‘fuck you’ to a lot of people and the confidence is there, and trying to captivate everybody in the journey that they’ve helped me to be on. Going live and touring has taught me a lot; I’ve got a lot heavier the shows got more energy and it’s been essential for me to tour.
Wales have seen some excellent bands and great frontmen; Benji Webbe and Skindred being a great example. But it’s not all great across the UK. There’s plenty of imitation and samey stuff…
There’s a tendency for some reason, where one particular style of music will catch and everybody will copy that – I don’t get it. This whole regurgitation of emo which has been going on and on is just so generic now. Christ man. The real sad thing is, I remember the day you had bands like Sepultura, Fear Factory and Machine Head on the front cover of Kerrang! Now it’s some band that looks like fucking McFly or even Busted. It’s become that and it sickens me. The sincerity is gone and when you come to real shows like this, it’s not bubblegum rubbish. I think that’s falling off the wayside and the real stuff is coming back.
You mentioned about nerves onstage. How do you deal with it now?
I shit myself, even now! I said to one of my crew, the confidence that you see is actually my adrenaline – so I’m not confident. I don’t really engage that much – I do talk to the crowd but the distance you see onstage is because I am shitting my pants! I was a drummer for years – I was in the background. The music’s so loud that it engulfs me and I’m absolutely lost in my own world and I don’t even perform looking at them, I’m looking at the sound engineer and concentrating. If I start to see the whites of their eyes, I fall apart. The mixed chemicals of adrenaline and fear are beyond any drug I could ever tell you about! It makes you do weird things.
Interview by Calum Robson.