Little Villains have perhaps the most amazing backstory they’re going to tell you about, but I’m just going to say it involves Motorhead’s Philthy Animal Taylor, James Alexander Childs, defective consumer products and a Fry’s Electronics in Los Angeles. That year would be 2005.
Megasized Fry’s will be remembered for the crazed flourishes to their interior and exterior design… Spaceship crashing into the front of the store (Burbank I think), no problem; and their stock of anything that required a power source - from a capacitor to an air conditioning system, and literally everything in between - it was at Fry’s that I saw my first toaster oven with an external cantilevered egg fryer! American Innovation at its finest.
Anyway, Taylor and Childs decided to form a band and Little Villains were born. Owen Street completed the line up, playing bass at early recording sessions.
The group set about recording materials at Phil’s place, James’s studio and Unit A studio in Palm Springs. James and Phil continued to work on and off on their recordings up until 2010. They’d discussed recording more, but Phil became ill and returned to England where he had more of a personal support system. Sadly, Phil died in 2015.
Little Villains’ first album, “Philthy Lies”, was released on Heavy Psyche Sounds Records in 2019 with the blessing of Phil’s family. Chris Fielden joined the band, playing drums on tour. Owen Childs, James’s nephew, also joined, playing guitar.
The second album, “Taylor Made”, was released by Los Angeles’ legendary independent, Cleopatra Records in 2020, again featuring Phil on drums and James on guitar and vocals. Alan Davey of Hawkwind played bass on the album. Chris Fielden and Owen Childs feature on backing vocals and guitar.
“Achtung Minen”, was written and recorded by James Childs, Owen Childs and Chris Fielden. The album received positive reviews and radio play throughout the UK, Europe and the US. It was released on Spira Records in November 2020.
September 2022 sees the release of their fourth studio album titled “Battle of Britain”, a 10-track “metal behemoth”. The songs are performed by the current line up of James Childs on bass and vocals, Owen Childs, guitar and vocals and Chris Fielden, drums and vocals, with guest appearances by Nick Davidge and Simon Hedges of Airbus. Little Villains are planning to tour later in 2022 / early in 2023 and are working on new material in the studio.
We spoke with drummer Chris Fielden about the band, and also his interest in promoting independent literature and the other stuff that makes up his day…
OUTSIDELEFT: Okay… Let’s talk about Motorhead. I saw them play in a tiny club one time, back in the 90s I wanna say it was Anaheim, but it was Orange County for sure, at least and the show had been put on by KNAC, the rock station that sold more t-shirts than the bands they played all put together. That’s amazing how your band, who have evolved into The Little Villains, connected with Philthy Phil from Motorhead, way back can you talk about that…?
CHRIS FIELDEN: I’ve seen Motorhead play a few times, and they were a really powerful band. Each line-up they had was awesome, but my personal favourite has always been the Ace of Spades line-up – Lemmy, Fast Eddy and Philthy – because that’s what I grew up with. The way Phil and James started Little Villains was completely random – down to the gods of metal, Odin or someone like that LOL. You can read about how they met in the band bio, but the basic gist is James was in an electronics store in LA, returning a faulty DVD player. He was chewing out the cashier trying to get his money back. Phil was in the queue, heard his accent and they got talking from there. And somehow decided to start a band. Totally chance encounter. Phil also introduced James to Lemmy. They had a mutual interest in the history of WWII. I was fortunate to meet Phil when I was in LA. He was a total legend. And we had some crazy exchanges on Myspace too (showing my age there – pre-Facebook). He was really funny. It was like chatting to a Monty Python character.
OL: Your sound is evolving, it’s not so straight ahead metal-rocknroll?
CF: Yeah, I think the sound has changed. I guess that always happens to a certain extent when band members change... When I took over drum duty, I was really nervous about it. Phil was an incredible double kick player with a very distinct style. I’ve always played with a single kick. I experimented with a double kick pedal, but it didn’t sound great. The last thing I wanted to do was a poor imitation. So I decided to adapt what he’d done, reworking the beats into single bass drum patterns and playing it in my own style. That approach seemed to work. When we toured the Philthy Lies album, it went down really well, and I was far more comfortable doing my own thing with the songs. I think that was a more respectful approach too. And I’ve kept that style moving forward. The other thing that influenced the sound is the way the songs are written. Villains is very much a group effort. There isn’t one songwriter. Everyone brings different riffs, melodies and ideas to the table and then we work it from there. So again, changing band members has an impact on that due to the way the songs are written. I think it’s a good thing, personally – it means there’s variety on all the records.
OL: And when I spoke to you, you were heading out to do some gigs. Live performances are important to the band, in the pandemic, did everything just come to a complete halt for you, did you get ready for it to end or what?
CF: The pandemic stopped gigs completely. We had about 18 months with nothing. Luckily, we’d just finished a mammoth recording session in LA before lockdown happened, so we were able to work on the 30+ songs we’d recorded and got two albums out of it – Achtung Minen, which we released in 2020, and Battle of Britain, which is due for release later this year. So we did the best we could with a shit situation. Since lockdown has lifted, we’ve done a couple of mini tours, filmed some videos and are planning a longer European tour at the end of this year. But COVID really hit the music industry hard. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again…
OL: The work you do for writers, with your website, it’s no small feat keeping your site going. I’d connected with you over promoting our short story competition. What makes that happen for you?
CF: I love writing, and the site evolved by accident really. I started it off as an author website. It quickly became apparent that no one was finding it because no one had heard of me, so I thought about ways to grow the audience. I had this big spreadsheet of competitions and magazines I wanted to submit my stories to, and I thought other people might find the information useful. So I built a page and it went from there, really. People started finding it, sharing it and asking me to develop more resources, which I did. So now it gets a nice lot of traffic through it every month. I love running it – you meet some amazing people, yourself included mate!
OL: It would be remiss to not talk about hair, since you have dedicated some time to thinking about it and grooming it. Your article about your mullet and its attendant benefits, immediately made me think of a searingly hot afternoon and how handy a mullet would be in preventing sunburn on the back of the neck.
CF: Ah, mullets… the rock world has been rife with them over the years. I love them – it’s called the Haircut of the Gods for good reason. I used to have a lot of hair – massive big curly blond locks that women were jealous of. Nowadays, I’m struggling. More hair seems to be coming out of my ears, nose and other orifices that I won’t mention, than my scalp. But hey. Less hair = more sunburn. But it also saves a lot of money in shampoo. Clouds, silver linings and all that.
OL: What’s next for the band, are you getting back into the studio for a new record soon?
CF: Yeah, we are. The plan is to put out Battle of Britain, tour, and then record the next record. We have a lot of it demoed up already, so I’m hoping we can do another mammoth recording session sometime in 2023 and get another two records out of it. That’s quite a good way of working for us. We don’t fuck about in the studio. All the songs are done in 3 takes max. We prefer the quick approach because the vibe is usually better. We record the core of the song live (guitar, bass and drums all together – not a click track in sight) and then do solos and vocals after. It’s a rough and ready approach, but we prefer that to procrastinating, trying to get the perfect take. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but it works for us… gives it that real rock n roll vibe.
I can't wait to hear it. Meanwhile be sure to check out Little Villains coming to a town near you in the Fall, check their website for tour dates.