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Fightstar Frontman Charlie Simpson on Comebacks, Reunions and New Projects

UK alt metal band Fightstar’s frontman Charlie Simpson on their new album ‘Behind the Devil’s Back’ and returning to his pop rock band Busted after a decade

Anurag Tagat Feb 18, 2016
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(From left) Dan Haigh (bass), Charlie Simpson (guitars/vocals), Omar Abidi (drums) and Alex Westaway (guitars/vocals) of Fightstar. Photo: Courtesy of BM Management.

When UK singer-guitarist Charlie Simpson left pop rock band Busted at the height of their fame in 2004, it was because he felt “the music wasn’t really fulfilling.” He then turned to his alternative metal side project Fightstar, formed in 2003 with guitarist/vocalist Alex Westaway, bassist Dan Haigh and drummer Omar Abidi. More than a decade later, Simpson seems to be a notable example in outgrowing a certain kind of pop music [take note, Justin Bieber].

That teen who sang “What I Go to School For” and “Air Hostess” in the early 2000s was soon screaming his throat out with Fightstar, which was influenced by bands such as American metal band Deftones and post-hardcore band Thrice, along with clear rock influences by the likes of The Cure. Simpson says over the phone from London, “I’ve always loved Deftones – they’re one of the best bands around.”

But even after one EP and three albums that put them on the UK Albums Chart in six years, Fightstar took a break in 2010 and the band members began concentrat ing on their individual projects. Simpson went mellow again, releasing two indie/folk albums while Haigh and Westaway formed electro/synthwave project Gunship. It was only after playing sold-out shows to celebrate their 10th anniversary that Fightstar reunited to write their fourth album, Behind the Devil’s Back, which released independently last year. Says Simpson, “We had very much reached a free state of mind when we did it, so we weren’t really thinking about whether it’d be something people would enjoy listening to. No one had any other agenda apart from making a record that we love. We didn’t want to worry about whether a song should be a single or getting played on the radio or anything. The aim was to make an album that made us happy and I think it’s come out best among all the records.”

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A straight-to-the-riffs album, Behind the Devil’s Back includes Westaway and Haigh’s love for synth that came from Gunship. Simpson adds, “I started using a seven-string guitar for the first time. That gives a lot of power to the guitar sound.” But in the midst of all the breakdowns, there’s still real emotive energy in Simpson and Westaway’s vocals on the album, something that makes Fightstar one of those timeless metal bands no one ever outgrows. Simpson says, “That’s what we strive to do…Not to be part of any scene. The bands that we love like [American rock act] Thrice, Deftones – they’ve always done that. Their stuff hasn’t gone in phases.”

After the release and success of Behind the Devil’s Back, Simpson has gone back to the start, reuniting with Busted members James Bourne and Matt Willis in November last year. He is going to have quite a year touring with Busted and a few other projects. Simpson says, “I’m gonna be releasing a project with my brothers, called Once Upon a Dead Man. That’s more sort of electronic-y stuff, which is going to be cool. I’m also releasing a few solo things, but it’s mainly touring. There’ll be a Busted album coming at the end of the year.” He adds, “Fightstar will definitely be back in the future to record more stuff. It’s going to be a busy year.”

This article appeared in the February 2016 issue of ROLLING STONE India. 

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