DEAD BANDS: FAILURE

by chuck bell

It would seem that in this forum, a band that refers to themselves as Failure would most likely be a case of tragic irony. The term would certainly be appropriate for the band’s attempts at mainstream success, yet it is impossible to classify them this way, due to their technical innovation and overall impact on alternative music. Failure formed in 1990, when vocalist/guitarist Ken Andrews and guitarist/bassist Greg Edwards met through classified ads in Los Angeles. After several years of playing local shows and recording 4-track demos, they went into the studio with producer Steve Albini to record their debut album, Comfort, in 1992. This album was a bit rough around the edges, but firmly introduced their stoner rock sound, characterized by pummeling drums and sludgy basslines.

Artist: Failure
Song: Enjoy the Silence

With the release of Comfort, Failure signed to Slash Records (a subsidiary of Warner Bros.) and went on their first tour with Tool. For their second album, the band decided that they wanted to handle the production themselves. Along with the addition of permanent drummer Kellii Scott, they recorded Magnified, which found the band experimenting with numerous guitar effects and sound layering. In fact, this record sounded so vast, that Ken Andrews became known as the alt-rock Phil Spector, for his virtual “wall of sound.” The album gained them plenty of respect from critics and musicians, but only managed to receive very limited radio play.

For their third full-length, Failure decided to rent a house (Lita Ford’s house to be precise), so that they could take all of the time that they needed to create what would be their masterpiece, Fantastic Planet. Their diligent attention to detail is evident on the album, as each element seems perfectly set in place to form an epic space rock record. However, during the recording sessions, Slash Records was dropped by Warner Bros., and the record was not released until nearly a year after its completion. The first single, “Stuck On You,” reached #31 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart in 1996, but this was the pinnacle of their commercial success. The next song that they recorded would be their last, a cover of “Enjoy the Silence” for the Depeche Mode tribute album, For the Masses. Depeche Mode’s bassist/synth operator Andrew Fletcher has gone on record as saying that he actually prefers the Failure version to the original.

The band finally broke up in 1997, due to personal differences, but the members have managed to keep themselves busy. Kellii Scott went on to play with Blinker the Star, Campfire Girls and Veruca Salt. Greg Edwards formed Autolux, who since went on to collaborate with UNKLE and tour with Nine Inch Nails. Ken Andrews has been the most prolific in the wake of Failure, both as a musician and a producer. He has released two albums with new bands: ON, an electronic-based departure, and Year of the Rabbit, which brought him back to guitar rock. In 2007, he released his first album under his own name, Secrets of the Lost Satellite, getting help from his friends in Beck’s backup band. He is now known better for his work as a producer/mixer, working with bands like Blink-182, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and Nine Inch Nails.

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