We met Richard Fearless – aka Richard Maguire – front man of Death In Vegas on the occasion of their visit to Barcelona for the MIRA Festival, where they presented last Friday live their latest album Transmission accompanied by a set of visuals of their own. Visceral techno, Krautrock and discordant drones out of sequencers, synthesizers, percussions and delays filled this new work with experimental, metallic and cold sound, impregnating it with a character that feels as disconsolate as euphoric in equal parts.
Let’s start with your background, given Spanish public might not be familiar with it. You were born in Chingola, northern Zambia, where your parents had fled the troubles in Belfast. Why did they decide to go there?
I think they’d just had enough, lost some friends in the war. My father is from the Falls Road (front line of the troubles) and a Catholic. My mother’s a Scottish Protestant. My father was an engineer and a job came up in Zambia and he jumped at the chance.
How was your ‘colonial’ experience there? I guess you were there with white community, if I’m not wrong. I would like to know how this has affected your life and career?
It wasn’t a colonial experience really, my mother was an art teacher and her colleges were Zambian, my father’s work was mainly Indian, Zambian, and few South Africans. My dad always wanted to be a professional photographer; we always had a darkroom set up at home. Most weekends were spent trekking into the bush, the salt flats, then the house was pretty swamped in Congolese music, the Zambian scene in the seventies was pretty wild, so we weren’t really hanging out with a bunch of white kids. 
Your mother was an art teacher and your father was into the big band scene in Belfast. Then you came back to England to study arts. When did you realize you wanted to be a musician?
I came to England to attend boarding school. When I was seven I went back to Africa in the holidays. My father stayed in Africa untill my twenties, my parent’s split up. I always thought I’d be a painter so I got an art scholarship at 13. I was also always into music, collecting records and following bands, but sadly not into playing instruments. I hated my school and music lessons meant some weird teacher in a tiny room for an hour, which wasn’t my thing. I wish more than anything I’d learnt earlier, though.
Since 1996 you have worked with several partners. Steve Hellier was your companion for two years with whom you had a MTV hit in 1997. Then Tim Holmes came to the formation and you released two more albums with collaborations of celebrity guests as Iggy Pop, Bobby Gillespie, Dot Allison, Hope Sandoval, Paul Weller, Nicola Kuperas and Liam Gallagher. According to some press of that time, 2002, your collaboration with Liam Gallagher on the title track of Scorpio Rising led you to frustration every time Death in Vegas (DiV) played live and public claimed for the ‘hits’, is that true?
Yeah, I’m just not interested in doing a band like this, playing greatest hits. I apologize to my fans but I have to make the project creatively exciting to me in order to carry it on, that’s my mantra with Death in Vegas. Because of this, DiV feels relevant again: shed some weight and lifted up some new souls off the floor.
After Satan's Circus (2004), you ‘unofficially’ quit the business and moved to New York. Can you explain why did you make that decision? 
Felt like I needed to cross the ocean. Was bored with London, I didn’t quit the music scene, but I just put Death in Vegas on hold. In fact it was one of my most productive periods, musically speaking. I just wanted to be somewhere different and felt the need to study.
A long hiatus until in 2011 you launched Trans-Love Energies. What did you do in those years until you decided to come back?
I went back to study photography and started another band, Black Acid. We made one unreleased album which I think is one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Is DiV just you, nowadays? I guess changing formations is the standard evolution of a long music career. But, on a human level, do you prefer working alone or with other people?
Death in Vegas has always been my band, driven by me, but I’ve always worked with an engineer. I do like to be on my own and, fortunate enough, the current roster of people I work with are all friends.
Then, another five years to release the sixth album of your career, Transmission, where you collaborate with musician Chris Blakey and actress and performer Sasha Grey. The album was launched in May this year by Drone, your label. I saw the AV show in Berlin Atonal and it was one of my favourite performances at the festival. How’s it working with your new music companion Chris?
Chris is a sweetheart, a good egg as they say. He’s prepared to work really hard. I try to put everything I have into every project I do and Chris is the same. 
I have read you got in contact with Sasha Grey after seeing her in a TV show in Los Angeles and reading she was big admirer of Throbbing Gristle and Chris and Cosey. How is the experience of collaborating with her?
Sasha’s a good soul. I instantly really warmed to her, she put so much into her part of the performance and I couldn’t have asked for more from her.
And how has been the reception of the album Transmission in these six months?
Critically, it’s been fantastic. 
You were presenting the AV show Transmission in Barcelona at MIRA Festival. Had you –excepting gigs as DJ – played in Spain before? How was the experience?
The last Death in Vegas show I did in Spain was at Primavera Sound here in Barcelona also. We went on as The Cure came off stage, pretty wild I seem to remember, seemed like there was a lot of love out there.
You studied arts in London and, after that, photography in NY, as you just mentioned. Recently, you have directed the music video Consequences Of Love, the second Transmission single, featuring Sasha Grey. Is it your first video or your first experience as filmmaker? What was your inspiration to shoot the moonlight and what is the history behind the clip?
No, it is not the first time. I directed a bunch of the old videos, as the one with Emmanuelle Seigner, Hands Around My Throat or Dirge. The video Consequences Of Love was loosely inspired by the work on Monte Hellman and Dario Argento.
Now, and to know more about your background, lets talk a bit about cultural subjects in general. Do you like cinema? Have you seen any films recently?
Sure, I’ve always had a great love for cinema. While I was doing The Contino Sessions, I’d just have films running in the background all the time. Still at home, when I am listening to music, I like to run film simultaneously, like Harry Smith or Sam Brakhage movies.
What are your favourite directors and movies of all times?
God, endless list. As directors, I already mentioned Monte Hellman, Argento, and then Hitchcock, Herzog, Roeg, David Lean or Kurosawa. My favourite movies would be: Jaws, Two-Lane Blacktop, Peeping Tom, Lawrence of Arabia, Parallax View, Rosemary’s Baby… I don’t have a favourite film as such.
About visual arts, give us a few names of artists and works –contemporary or not– you really like.
I like Brice Mardon, Cy Twombly. I don’t follow the contemporary art scene at all. I’ve never stopped making art and feel that current trends can throw me somewhat with the originality of my own work. 
Have you read any good books lately?
Yes, Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada.
I saw the movie made after the book in the last Berlinale Film Fest. We’re almost finished with questions. You are also a DJ, what do you like to play in your DJ sets?
I play techno, I guess. Unless I’m playing all night and I might go on a bit of a journey before hand.
To finish, and related to other musicians, we would like to know what are you listening right now –what do you have in your phone or iPod?
The only things I have on my phone are demos and U2 – for God’s sake, how do you get it off?At home everything from around the globe with a bit of Peppa Pig thrown in.