Failure - Biography
By Scott Feemster
Failure were one in an almost endless string of bands that while loved when they were around, achieved even greater recognition after they had broken up. Centered around the creative team of songwriters Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards, Failure where both heavy and melodic, as were other post-grunge bands of the 1990’s, but the group differentiated themselves by paying especially close attention to the textural details of many of their songs, and for their willingness to experiment sonically.
Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards met each other in 1990 in Southern California after each answered the others classified ad. The two immediately hit it off, and started working on crafting some songs together on their 4-track recorder. Both were multi-instrumentalists, and would often switch off guitar and bass duties. Soon after they got some demos together, they enlisted drummer Robert Gauss to join their band and christened themselves Failure. The group started gigging around the Los Angeles area, and soon after recorded a handful of songs with producer Paul Lani. Four of the songs from the sessions were used for Failure’s two debut 7” vinyl singles, titled “Comfort” and “Pro-Catastrophe”, and released on the band’s own label, Sweet Smelling Records. The singles and their live shows brought them to the attention of Slash Records, an L.A. independent label that had a manufacturing and distribution deal with major label Warner Brothers, and in 1992 the group signed with the label. To record what would become their debut album, Andrews, Edwards and Gauss decamped to Minnesota’s Pachyderm Studios with producer Steve Albini. Comfort was released in September of 1992, and featured Albini’s signature stripped-down, drum-heavy sound. Neither Albini or the band were entirely happy with how the album turned out, and from that point forward both Andrews and Edwards took a much stronger hand in how Failure albums were produced. Though Comfort gained Failure some strong reviews, the album sold only meagerly, despite Failure touring behind the record, often opening shows for Tool. (Failure would go on to forge a lasting friendship with the members of Tool.)
At around the time Failure were beginning to make demos for a new album, drummer Gauss decided to leave the band, leaving just Andrews and Edwards to continue the group. The two took up the challenge, with Andrews singing, playing guitar, bass, and keyboards, and also handling most of the production, and Edwards playing bass, guitar, and drums. (Session drummer John Dargahi was also brought in to contribute drums, as well.) The resulting album, 1994's Magnified (Slash) was a huge step forward for the band, as it combined Edwards and Andrews maturing songwriting with arrangements that were both modern, but also hearkened back to such classic rock bands as the Beatles, mid-period Pink Floyd, and early Black Sabbath.
Before the band headed out on tour to support Magnified, Edwards and Andrews recruited a new drummer, Kellii Scott. Though Magnified sold better than its predecessor, it was still not a big sales success, but the album did receive many strong reviews and other musicians took note of the band's hard-but-melodic sound and Andrews and Edwards sonically rich production style. The group again toured with Tool, and often Tool guitarist Adam Jones would come out and play the song “Macaque” with Failure, adding his second guitar.
Once back from tour, and with better backing from their label, the trio started work on their next album by renting a home from former Runaway Lita Ford and setting it up as a live-in studio. The group again produced themselves, and Andrews also did double time as the engineer. Because the band didn't have to race against the clock for studio time, they were able to take more time with the songs and try out more ideas texturally and sonically. While they were recording, they received word that Slash's distribution deal with Warner Brothers had expired and would not be renewed. This news sidelined their recordings, while they waited to see if Warner Brothers would pick the band up and put out the recordings. During the downtime, Edwards and Andrews joined with ex-Tool bassist Paul D'Amour and keyboardist Chris Pitman to form the side project Replicants. Replicants released one self titled album in 1995, consisting entirely of cover songs of bands from the 1970's and 1980's done in a heavier style. (Tool singer Maynard James Keenan guested on vocals on the band's version of the Wings song “Silly Love Songs”.) Andrews also took a couple of production jobs, producing albums for Molly McGuire and Blinker The Star. Warner Brothers eventually decided to release the album, now titled Fantastic Planet, in August of 1996. The album's first single, “Stuck On You”, became a minor hit on modern radio and the video for the song, ( a take-off on the opening montages of James Bond films), got some moderate play on MTV. Fantastic Planet was hailed by some critics as a latter-day post-grunge masterpiece, and the band further expanded their sound and reach while keeping the basic 'heavyness' of their approach. To replicate the more intricate guitar parts and layering used on Fantastic Planet, the group recruited guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen to join the band on tour. Failure were asked to participate in the last Lollapalooza tour in 1997, and were also asked to contribute a track to a Depeche Mode tribute album their friends in the industrial rock band God Lives Underwater were compiling. Failure chose to cover the song “Enjoy The Silence”, and many fans of both Failure and Depeche Mode commented on what a good version the band did of the song. The group toured heavily in support of Fantastic Planet, but “Stuck On You” stalled in the charts, and Warner Brothers decided to not to release a second single. It seemed the band had been dealt a final blow after trying so hard to get the publics attention. About a year after the release of Fantastic Planet, it was announced that Failure would be breaking up, due to personal differences between Edwards and Andrews.
Ken Andrews went on to form the (basically) one-man electronic-based project ON, and later founded a new rock-based band, Year Of The Rabbit, which released one self-titled album in 2003 before splitting up. Because of his production work on the Failure albums, Andrews has become an in-demand producer for many other musical acts, and has worked on albums by the likes of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Mae, Pete Yorn, Tenacious D, and his wife, the singer/songwriter Charlotte Martin. Andrews is currently performing as a solo artist, and has also founded what he calls a “digital band” called the Los Angeles Digital Noise Academy with a loose group of other musicians, including Martin, Brad Laner, (formerly of Medicine), and Sharky Laguana, (formerly of Creeper Lagoon). He has also started his own label, called Dinosaur Fight Records, which has released a solo album by him and Martin, and have announced that an album by the L.A. Digital Noise Academy is forthcoming. Greg Edwards joined with Chris Pitman, Brad Laner, and Paul D'Amour to form the quasi-psychedelic band Lusk after Failure's break-up, and the group released one album, Free Mars (Zoo) in 1997 before breaking up. Later, in 2000, Edwards joined with ex-Maids Of Gravity bassist Eugene Goreshter and ex-Ednaswap drummer Carla Azar to form the band Autolux. Autolux released a self-produced EP called Demonstration in 2001, which lead to the band being signed to the DMZ label, a boutique label run by T-Bone Burnett with distribution through Sony BMG. With Burnett producing, the group released the album Future Perfect in 2004, to much critical acclaim. The band went on to work with the group UNKLE on their 2007 album War Stories (Surrender All), and are due to release a new album sometime in 2009. Kellii Scott went on to play drums with several bands, including Campfire Girls, Blinker The Star, Veruca Salt, and Enemy. Troy Van Leeuwen joined the Tool side project band A Perfect Circle, and appeared on the band's first album, 2000's Mer De Noms (Virgin), and also toured with the band and appeared on several tracks on the group's second album, Thirteenth Step (Virgin)(2003). During sessions for Thirteenth Step, Van Leeuwen was asked to join Queens Of The Stone Age, and has remained as one of their guitarists ever since. He also formed the band Enemy, which has released one album, Hooray For Dark Matter (The Control Group)(2005).