As we enter the last week of Lower Than Atlantis, we're sharing the final interview with Mike Duce as their frontman.
Mike Duce was always outspoken, honest and real to his core. Fresh from a recent incident when he quite literally caught fire, this is Mike's last ever interview as the frontman of Lower Than Atlantis.
Below is part one of three - pick up the latest issue of Rock Sound for the full final interview with Mike Duce. It's available right now, worldwide from HERE.
You recently caught fire. Is that the most Mike Duce thing you’ve ever done?
“It’s probably up there, isn’t it? It’s to be expected at this point. I went from not planning on going out to being naked in the back of an ambulance in the space of an hour, but I got morphine out of it, which is a massive bonus. I’m looking at it as being set on fire was a small price to pay for the free drugs.”
For anyone who doesn’t know, you were at a gig and a battery exploded in your pocket, which set your trousers on fire. That’s essentially it, right?
“In a nutshell yeah, but how fucking stupid does it sound? Honestly, my life is like a really shit, straight-to-DVD film. It’s basically like The Truman Show, only I don’t have the nice, idyllic life they gave Jim Carrey. Mine’s just horrible and really shit things happen to me all the time. Long story short, I was at the bar at a gig in London, and then a battery exploded in my pocket. To start with I had no idea what was going on, I thought someone had let off a firework or something, and then the next thing I knew I was smouldering. I had no idea where the smoke was coming from to start with, so I was basically peeling off different items of clothing like a terrible stripper, only the stripper is literally on fire. The bar staff started hosing me down with the little things they shoot lemonade out of... it was fucking ridiculous. So yeah, next thing you know I’m naked and on my way to have some skin cut off my arse cheeks and grafted onto my leg.”
You’re about to play the final Lower Than Atlantis shows. What has it been like preparing to let go of the band?
“It’s been sad, I’m not gonna lie. It’s probably... it’s probably my own fault in some ways, and has been much to my detriment, that I let the band define me so much as a person. I’ve been in this band the entirety of my adult life, from the age of 18 to 30 as I am now. It’s not even been a big part of it, it’s been my life. To not have it there, I’ve been feeling really fucking lost. I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching over the last few months and realised that I don’t really know who I am. I was always the guy from that band, but now I’m not because there isn’t a band anymore. Who the fuck am I? In a way the accident was a blessing in disguise. I’d been caning it too much and wasn’t looking after myself at all, but once that happened and I was laid in bed for a month unable to get fucked up, it made me start to think a lot clearer. I’ve always felt as though nobody likes me and I don’t have any friends, and for some reason I’ve spent the last decade of my life almost purposefully alienating myself from people. But having people send me messages and checking up on me recently, and actually giving a shit if I’m okay, has really helped. It’s made me feel like maybe there’s something for me to offer the world outside of just being the bloke from a band.”
What brought on the decision to bring LTA to a close?
“So many people have asked me that question, but to be honest I haven’t really answered it properly yet. I understand why people would be shocked, because from the outside we’re the biggest we’ve ever been. We’re the most successful we’ve
ever been in terms of UK ticket and album sales, we’ve almost become the house band at Reading & Leeds which is one of the biggest festivals in the world, we’ve done a lot of stuff with Radio 1... but it hasn’t really made me happy. Last year I realised that I was fast approaching 30 and so I asked myself what I do that I enjoy and what I do that I don’t, and the simple fact is that the band was kind of the elephant in the room. It’s probably been more like the last two years that I haven’t really been happy, but through a combination of not knowing what else to do and also feeling a responsibility to not walk away from the other guys in the band, I’ve kept going even when I haven’t wanted to. Then last summer it just felt like it was time to make the call. I’d recently recouped my first publishing deal for my songwriting, Ben’s business was going well, Dec and Eddy were both doing a lot of session work... it just felt like with everybody having stuff on the go that if I didn’t make the decision to move on then, I probably never would.”
What was the feeling like when you made the decision?
“It was horrible, to be honest. It was not an enjoyable conversation. It was like the end of a marriage, or coming to terms with the death of your best friend. If I’m honest I still don’t think I’ve come to terms with it or really, truly processed that this is the end. I think there’s still a huge part of my brain that simply hasn’t allowed that reality to sink in.”
Have you been wavering the closer the shows get?
“I haven’t said this to anybody, but right up until a few days ago my mind has been totally committed to never doing this band again. When the shows were announced I was the one who wanted to label them as the final ones, nobody else felt the need to put that stamp on anything, but I didn’t want to lie to anybody because I’ve been so utterly resolute in my feelings towards stepping away for so long. As the shows have been getting closer, though... it’s hard to explain. A lot of people have been telling me I should do some sort of solo thing, but to be honest I just don’t care enough. I’m not that guy - I function best when I’m in a group of people, not on my own. I’ve been thinking of maybe starting a different band, a rock band where things are a little more on my terms. When you get to the size that LTA is - don’t get me wrong, we aren’t fucking U2 or anything - but we’re big enough to have to constantly think about things like radio play, label contracts, all this shit that pays our mortgages... eventually it just felt like this isn’t what I signed up for at the beginning. The closer the final shows get, the more I’m wondering if maybe I’ll want to come back to LTA at some point, even if it’s in five years or something. Maybe I won’t want to do anything at all in music, and I’ll just go and open a tattoo parlour or a coffee shop or something like that.”
It sounds like you’re not so sure now that you’re at the crossroads.
“It was never up for discussion in the past year, the idea of ever doing anything with LTA again in the future, but now... never say never, I suppose. Not that it’s totally up to me anyway, the other guys might all think I’m a total c**t and never want to speak to me again soon.”
When you first started the band, if somebody had told you that you’d bow out at a sold out Brixton Academy, would you have believed it? And furthermore, would that have felt like success?
“When we first started the band the only thing I wanted to do was tour – that’s it. And when I say tour, I mean sleeping in a shitty van in a carpark on the way to another gig in some grotty pub. That was basically as far as it went in terms of ambition. The only other thing I liked the idea of was playing the Camden Underworld. I don’t mean headline it, I mean just play it, even if we were the first band on a nine band bill playing at midday in front of nobody. When you consider those things, I’ve far surpassed any expectations I ever had with the band. So no, I wouldn’t have believed it at the beginning, but back then nobody told us anything to be honest. It was only after we started doing things that people started telling us stupid shit, and that we were stupid enough to believe a lot of it. I remember when we first sold out the Garage in London and signed to Island Records, and everybody was telling us we were gonna be the next Beatles or Rolling Stones. Obviously I never believed that, but it was hard not to get carried away with delusions of grandeur at times. We were being told outrageous shit all day, every day, and from people in really powerful positions. I defy anybody to not get one or two ideas above their station in those circumstances, but once we moved past it and got ourselves off Island, it felt like a second chance. We were happy just to be making music for a job again, and that’s more than I ever thought we’d get to do at the beginning."
Stay tuned for part two and three - but if you can't wait, pick up a copy of the most recent issue of Rock Sound for the full interview now from SHOP.ROCKSOUND.TV