Death in Vegas is the shapeshifting, highly influential band headed by psychedelic auteur Richard Fearless. Its storied history, spanning almost two decades, has seen the band incorporate a wide variety of musical genres from drone-heavy rock to synth-electronica and detroit techno. The recently conceived live show takes the band in a moodier, dustier direction. Elemental, industrial and rhythmic this show represents a major new stage for a band now firmly entrenched in the pantheon of British electronic acts.
The band was formed in 1994 by Fearless and signed to Concrete Records under the name of “Dead Elvis”. Objections from the Elvis Presley estate forced them to change their name, and Dead Elvis became the title of their first album instead. The album was a mixture of many musical genres, although most of the tracks are predominantly based in electronica.
The band’s second album, The Contino Sessions (1999), marked a slight change in direction with more attention to live instrumentation than their first and the inclusion of guest vocalists (including Dot Allison, Bobby Gillespie, Iggy Pop, and Jim Reid). Although predominantly rock-influenced, the album still retained some electronic elements, in particular the opening track “Dirge” with its drum machine-based rhythm track. “Dirge” was featured on a Levi’s jeans commercial, as well as the second installment of the Blair Witch Project and various other soundtracks. Along with “Aisha” (with vocals from Iggy Pop), “Dirge” helped the band gain more recognition, culminating in a Mercury Music Prize nomination in 2000. “Aisha” was a top 10 hit in the UK.
In September 2002, the band released their third album, Scorpio Rising, after almost a three-year gap. During their time off, the band had toured and briefly returned to their techno roots with the track “Scorpio”, which, although not appearing on any album, was included as the B-side of “Hands Around My Throat”, the first single from Scorpio Rising featuring Detroit’s Adult. vocalist Nicola Kuperus.
Scorpio Rising takes its name from the cult avant-garde film of the same name by Kenneth Anger. The lyrics of the title track (featuring vocals from Liam Gallagher) reflected the controversial nature of Anger’s film. It also continued to attract attention from advertisers and filmmakers with “Hands Around My Throat” appearing on the soundtrack to The Animatrix, while the track “Girls” was used to perfect effect on the soundtracks to Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation.
Death in Vegas set up their own label, Drone Records, and released their fourth album, Satan’s Circus, in 2004. The melody of Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express” is featured in the track “Zugaga”. Unlike the previous two albums, Satan’s Circus did not feature any guest vocalists. The album was also released as a limited edition double pack including a live CD, recorded on the Scorpio Rising tour at the Brixton Academy, London.
The band released their fifth studio album, Trans-Love Energies, on 26 September 2011 in the UK. Recorded in Shoreditch and mixed in Michigan, the album was a moody and spooky affair. Austra’s Katie Stelmanis contributes to “Your Loft My Acid” and “Witch Dance”, commanding an erotic charge reminiscent of the early Nineties dance tracks that partly inspired Radiohead on OK Computer.
In 2016, Death in Vegas returns with Transmission, the band’s sixth album.
United over a love of Throbbing Gristle and Chris and Cosey, Fearless partners with artist and writer Sasha Grey, whose lyrics resonate across the soundscape of visceral techno and unsettling, discordant drones, weaving into a state of dreamlike euphoria.
Field recordings of the constant drone of air traffic and incessant noise from the steel factory opposite Fearless’ Metal Box studio, as well as the Ballardian landscape in which it’s set, all exert their pull on the record, searching for light in the dark.