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Lifecore: Nathan Miles Of Fatalist

Fatalist – Manchester, England, United Kingdom

Lifecore: Nathan Miles Of Fatalist
All photography: Natasha Koziarsk (@tash_koziarska) // Cover Image: Worlddownfall Photography

What became “Lifecore: Nathan Miles Of Fatalist” was supposed to be another interview conducted at or around the sadly cancelled 2020 edition of Manchester Punk Festival. Fatalist, who were set to play, are very much one of newer Hardcore collectives born from the Manchester and greater UK Punk scene. The band’s style matches the heavy-set riff-work of recent timeline Hardcore but is also symbiotically paired with the relentless blasts of the energetic and cathartic societally resultant rage of the genres seminal beginnings. The Fatalist stamp on all this is one of emphatically clear disdain but also of a glimmer hope.

COVID-19 obviously had other ideas regarding this and the music scene as a whole but with music being the ubiquitous force that it is, despite being somewhat on hold, I asked Nathan if he would be interested in having an electro-scribbly chat with me and this is how it went.

So, in the first words that come into your head, who are you? What do you do? And what is a Fatalist? – You must answer this as if you are introducing a WWE wrestler over a tannoy. Because why not?

Hailing from Wolverhampton, Wales, Sheffield and Manchester to varying degrees; Mat Smith, Shaun Cole, Phil Giles & Nathan Miles create a cacophony of aural stimulation, relentless and inevitable as the world we find ourselves in. A Fatalist knows there is little they can do to chip away at the ever-grinding machinery that holds us in place, but they rage against it nonetheless.

Hope that was alright, Phil and Shaun are much more up on their wrestling than I am.

Oh, that’s more than sufficient. Good luck in the Hardcore title fight! Though I hear Big Tasty from Rash Decision currently holds that belt!

So Nathan, in this conglomerate, what do you bring to the table of blunt force trauma against the machine? (That’s a potential side-project band name for you, you can have that).

Thanks, I’ll bear that in mind if I ever want to get sued by Tom Morello.

I’ve played guitar and provided a chunk of the vocals for Fatalist since we did our demo in 2018 (incidentally that demo was recorded and mixed by Shaun who plays bass with us now). I write a fair bit of our music along with the other guys and contribute lyrics occasionally, but that is mostly Mat’s domain. At a show, my role is usually to go as hard as fucking possible, without breaking anything if I can, or getting knocked out by Shaun’s bass headstock. I also tend to enjoy inciting him to more explosive expressions of fury on stage, which he definitely does NOT need haha!

I’ve also come to fill the role of resident techy by chance, being the nerdiest about gear (though don’t ask me about drums). Whether it’s guitar setups, amp troubleshooting, navigating the sometimes-esoteric/ancient/broken backline guitar cabs at various venues… et cetera. I’d feign an amount of chagrin here, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love all that stuff.

I used to do the majority of the social media stuff, but more recently we’ve been all been at it, and I think the output is better for it.

But surely if you were a cover band? That’s a loophole, isn’t it?

Is it common at all for bands to try to enlist your defacto techy-prowess to ease their bewilderment prior to their set? I suddenly have this image of everyone pointing at you as the oracle of knowledge!

Usually quite the opposite, some bands can be quite precious about their gear. ‘Don’t put your head on top of mine’ etc. “Oracle” is probably a bit far, the other lads know what they’re doing, but my otherwise-useless knowledge from hours of internet forum and Youtube trawling occasionally pays off when we happen across something out of the ordinary.

So, in essence, you’re effectively a purposeful wind-up merchant, but specifically for Shaun and on-stage gymnastics? Has this stoking the Shaun-fire, to be blunt, ever gone wrong?

To answer the “stage gymnastics ” bit, and possibly derail your line of questioning (sorry); that part of what we do isn’t for show. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we’re not consciously putting on a performance, or doing something that looks visually entertaining for its own sake. In a sense that bit of what we do is for us. The things that we care about, and the music we make because of it weighs heavy on us, letting loose is catharsis we wouldn’t usually be afforded in everyday life.

We’re not a party Punk band (though that stuff, of course, has its place), we’re not about getting fucked up and falling about the stage, cracking wise or “putting on a show” so to speak. If we’re lively on stage it’s because we fucking mean it, if we look angry, exhausted, pained, exasperated or heartbroken by the shit that humans do to each other and other living things, it’s because we are.

Sorry to get a bit serious on you for a moment, but ultimately we are pretty serious. We love to make music and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t take a huge amount of joy from it, but it all comes from a place that we take with the respect I think it deserves.

I’m glad it has its uses above meme, after meme; after meme!

Not at all! No apologies needed! “Stage gymnastics” was simply my own over-spilling sense of humour. The whole point of this is to get the answers out of you and unveil what you’re about and you’ve very much spun me onto where I was thinking of going next quite seamlessly! I was going to ask you what it meant to you to be in a Punk and Hardcore band living in and regarding this mess of modern life we inhabit. In essence, I suppose, why would you say this form of music is so crucial right now?

To add a bit of context – Personally, being on the “outside” as it were, has always aided in my cathartic responses to whatever is ailing me at that time and dare-I-say allowed me to derive an understanding of it all. No matter how bleak and given even me a little hope. There is no filter here so say as little or as much as you want.

I figured that was the case, I hope I didn’t come off as dismissive, it’s hard to convey tone via email! That’s worked out nicely then, I think that stuff is pretty central to who we are and what we’re about, so I’m glad you pulled it out of me.

I think you make a good point, the band is definitely a product of the social context that we’re in, and to an extent, I agree that this scene is an important part of resistance, and for many, catharsis as you’ve said too. That said I don’t think that music alone, of any genre, is sufficient to counter the less desirable effects that late capitalism has on anyone who isn’t a wealthy, white, straight, able-bodied, cis dude. Short of going off on a ridiculous anarcho-syndicalist diatribe, I will come full-circle and say that the Punk and Hardcore scene is fertile ground for mutual aid, solidarity and a community that is inclusive – and that’s really important.

From a personal point of view, I know I’ve taken huge amounts of solace in the Hardcore and Punk scene, both in person at shows and getting lost in records.

Being in a Hardcore band is about all the above stuff, but its also about playing music that l love with my buds, getting to be involved in Manchester’s DIY scene and meeting some of the coolest people through it. Getting out to other cities and playing to people who are into it is the cherry on top, so to speak!

Despite our moniker referencing fatalism directly, I think we all believe that there is hope. We’re under no illusion that the odds are stacked and the game is rigged, but people do have the power to make a difference, tiny acts of resistance in numbers can be revolutionary, there’s more of us than there are of them, and all that. In Dropdead’s wise words: ‘it’s up to you and I to put a stop to it. It’s up to you and I to make a change…’

Fatalist

Again not at all! We can have a good old rant another time my friend.

I have to say I completely agree, I’ve always found this community, for the most part, not necessarily a safe haven from the monied focus of the outside and its overall disregard for human life but more a collective of people who can effectively see through all the complacency and make a start. However, I can say that the great thing about the scene is that it IS an intrinsically safe space for those disenfranchised, a point you’ve rightly made above and that I think is becoming more obvious now.

Everything starts from the ground up.

Speaking generally of the scene now, in hindsight, what was the catalyst for this way of thinking and what catapulted you into the seat you are sat in now? To further that, how has the journey been and how has this community changed from then to now through your eyes? – We will get onto more Fatalist focusses shortly.

Absolutely. Don’t get me wrong, there are still instances where the Punk scene is not inclusive, and I think it’s absolutely crucial that we don’t see “our scene” as a fairytale sanctuary that’s above it all. In the same way that there were (and still fucking are?!) Nazi Punks in the ’70s and ’80s, there are absolute garbage humans infiltrating and threatening our spaces to this day. Even in the short couple of years, I’ve been knocking around this scene, and in other scenes in other cities previously I have seen exclusion, discrimination, sexism, homophobia and abuse. It’s even more heartbreaking in a sense because these are the people who wax lyrical about fighting against all that shit, and to see the “good guys” turn a blind eye to that behaviour is completely crushing. Again, that said, there is a huge force of people actively fighting for a better, safer, more representative scene. Hell Hath No Fury and Pumpkin spring to mind as having spear-heading that charge in Manchester in really different but equally impactful ways, and its amazing to see other organisations work with them, or alongside them to the same end. Basically, I’d just make a plea for people to not be dickheads, and if your mate is being a dickhead, have a word, don’t just look the other way because ‘they’re sound’ to you.

I think I’ve answered a little bit about where “the scene” (and various other Punk scenes around the country) have been and where it is on its “journey” – if you like. To talk about what catalysed my way of thinking and attraction to the Punk and Hardcore crowd… I think my experience is probably similar to a huge amount of peoples’, and echos basically what you mentioned, as a kid I felt disenfranchised, on the outside. I’m from a really working-class ex-mining town outside of Wolverhampton, and that sort of disenfranchisement and disillusionment swallowed my generation (and many others before us) whole. Though at that point I had neither the formal or informal education to articulate why I felt like that, I understood the material conditions to a point but had no frame of reference, you know? Music and gigs were way more tangible expressions of frustration than those abstract concepts, and had a pre-built social scene for outsiders – So it’s little wonder a 15-year-old Miles was attracted to what the moshers were up to.

Having something to do in that dead little town was a godsend in itself. After that, I moved away to university, read loads of sociology, philosophy and psychology and became even more insufferable as a result haha (I also had a startling realisation that being a banal ignorant prick was not a quality reserved solely for denizens of that little mining town, it was much more widespread.)

It’s baffling how the scenes, so to speak, are so multifaceted. You have those moving forward, those trying to educate themselves and then those “who were there” or are “Punk” because they “do what they want”. Truthfully, I’m from a very conservative place so I had to teach myself all this, it’s so easy and yet many just stick to their archaic guns. Mentioning HHNF and Pumpkin is definitely a great example of progress. I live in Bath but I spend a lot of time in Bristol and write about a lot of the scene where I can and its another area moving swiftly forward. That said, it isn’t everywhere and I think you very much blunt-force trauma hit that nail on the head there.

Reading the bottom paragraph only is story I think many can resonate too and one easily enough able to drown out the overt audible tedium of the ‘Punk is dead’ and the ‘live music scene is dead’ from those who aren’t bothered enough to be involved. Apologies, I’m now having to stop myself from ranting.

Very quickly, before we actually talk about the band, everyone has “that” band. Who was is yours?

Likewise, bud, the black country and that part of the West Mids is by and large a Conservative stronghold, and has been as long as I can remember.

“that band?” I guess it depends. My first ever gig was Reuben and Billy Talent at the Wulfrun Hall, and was the first time it had really hit me that there were people playing decent music who hadn’t blown their own brains out in their prime, or disappeared up their own butter-slinging, vapid, irrelevant arse in their age. If you mean who is “that band” that made me want to do it for myself, it would have to be Cursed. Mat put me on to them a couple of years back, far too late to have ever seen them play live, but never too late to blow my fucking mind. You know when you have those very-rare moments, when a band, or a movie or a book is literally everything you want out of that piece of art/content at that moment? Yeah, that. I would be lying if I said I’m not massively in awe of the sound, vibe, energy and ethos that Chris Colohan tends to bring to all of his projects. As it happens, I listened to ‘Blood Of The Beasts’ in full while working from home this afternoon.

I know that the other guys in the band feel similarly but couldn’t say they’re necessarily “that band” for them too (though I’d hazard a guess it’s definitely either them or From Ashes Rise for Mat).

Haha ok, let’s talk about the band!

I’m from the Isle Of Wight originally and I’ve lived in Bath for ten years and that’s more generally Liberal with left-leanings due to the influx of students.

I should think within “Alternative Music” as a whole your story is probably a common one but no less paramount. I think most Punk and Hardcore fans end up put onto an album by either an inactive band, a defunct band or one that left that seminal record behind aeons ago. I’m big into Skate Punk and such so a lot of the big names weren’t really doing anything at the time of my sonic-awakening of sorts. I mean, sorry, my catalyst was obviously Fatalist. – From Ashes Rise are excellent though, I have to say.

Yes, so you’re in Knife Cl- Fatalist. What was the initial explosion of matter that ignited the flame and various other cliche statements permitted to me by the parameters of the English language? Where you all on the same page or was there a move towards by one person specifically?

Myself and Mat have been making music together for almost as long as we’ve known each other, which is a good few years now. Initially, that looked like sitting in my old flat jangling away on our guitars with an amp so quiet it might as well not be on. I think initially we wanted to play the music that we wanted to hear. I don’t think there was ever a point where we decided ‘it should sound like X’ or ‘The lyrical content should be Y’. That stuff very much happened organically. What has stayed very much the same are the lyrical themes. Mat writes almost all of the lyrics, and without being able to ask him directly, I’d hazard a guess that there was never any alternative approach, it wasn’t even a debate that of course, we were going to talk about the shit that’s important – because otherwise, what’s the point in all the anger? Sound and fury signifying nothing? The sound is a bit of a different story, though no less organic.

When we cut our demo a couple of years back me and Mat were the only “members” of the band, Shaun and Phil dipped their toes in when Phil drummed on the demo, and Shaun recorded and engineered it (Incidentally, a good buddy of ours, Nathan, played the bass parts on that demo – he used to be in Ladies Darts Night before they split\went on hiatus a while ago – if you like foot-tappy beats and sarcasm and being grumpy you should check our their stuff on Spotify).

The story is pretty straightforward from then on, impressed by how vicious he was to innocent drum skins we asked Phil if he’d like to join the cause on a more permanent tenure. Very shortly after Shaun picked up a bass (he’s traditionally a guitarist and a really good one at that… ask him to play you something in 3/4 and he’ll be all over it) and joined us. The reason I mention that kind of timeline is that I think Phil and Shaun getting more involved contributed significantly to the shift in our aim for the sound. The demo is thrashy and fast, sure, but it’s rudimentary, a touch juvenile sometimes, in places it was snotty, rather than angry.

The culmination of the what Phil, Shaun, Mat and myself brought into the practice room over the past year or so has gotten faster, grittier, louder, darker, I’m still really proud of ‘Ire’ and think it does a really good job of representing the fundamentals of what we’re about. The stuff we’re finishing off for our next record is more dynamic, it’s brutally slow in places, and break-neck in others, some parts are soft, almost ambient, some are gnarly as fuck. Thinking about it now that you’ve asked I think it’s due in part to the influences that the four of us have in common, sometimes Hardcore-adjacent stuff we all like, Black Metal, Doom, Screamo, and bands that meld loads of that stuff together like Baptists, Harrowed, Cult Leader, Minors, Geist, Totem Skin. We were supposed to record with Joe Clayton in a couple of weeks but obviously that’s been rescheduled. So you’ll have to take my word for it for now.

I think that although saying this is somewhat cliche, that is unambiguously the best way about it. Don’t get me wrong, there are some bands that set out to be one thing specifically and it works but often than not, it can move towards being a little contrived! More so in a lighthearted digression of sorts, via your personal taste, is there a band of considerable notoriety that you would want to avoid becoming? There is always that joke about living long enough to become Pennywise in the Skate Punk scene for example. My first tattoo was of their logo so I can’t say I really care.

This COVID-19 issue has really stuffed it hasn’t it? I’ve been getting a lot of emails and messages effectively denoting to the same issue, I feel for everyone who had tour and recording plans.

The new material sounds interesting, is there anything else you can reasonably give away at all? EP, full-length, concept release etc?

I’ve never really given that any thought haha! I wouldn’t want to be one of those bands that has like, rehearsed stage banter. You know when you see a band twice, maybe two nights on the bounce, and they say the same jokes or inspirational speeches between the same songs or whatever. Like trying to present the idea of being organic and interactive but it’s actually like a telemarketer reading off a script? But you know, if that works for you and is part of your life thing then more power to ya, it’s just not for me. 

Yeah it’s been pretty gutting, we were supposed to play MPF and record new stuff, April was set to be a killer month so it’s kind of doubly disappointing on top of all the other gigs that have been cancelled, and not being able to practice together. 

I think we’ve gone in with the mindset of polishing and nailing down as much quality stuff as possible, then getting as much of it recorded as we can. In all likelihood, it’ll be an EP, but we’ve probably got a few too many tracks ready to go to fit all on to one EP; if that makes sense. 

I completely get that. Truthfully, I’ve been known to zone-out somewhat when that happens, which is a shame! But it is what it is. Well, that should be enough to keep people in want I should think.

That’s actually led really well onto where I wanted to go. Honestly, it is more than shit that everything from practices to gigs has been cancelled. Especially when bands are or were not the periphery of releases and tours. And so, I wanted to ask you about being in a band during all this. Screens are full of ways in which people are keeping busy and fighting off the looming-madness. You and I likely have our own ways of dealing with it, for example.

I wanted to ask you what and how Fatalist are doing during this? What’s helping the most? Are there issues not initially obvious to those outside? And what advice would you give to other musicians?

That’s the million-dollar-question I reckon. We’ve kept on much the same as we would usually, but with a Hangouts chat at the times we would usually practice. It’s been helpful to talk about band stuff, share ideas, music, talk about potential plans etc. But most importantly in my view, it’s been really helpful to just see each others’ faces and shoot the shit.

Personally, that contact is really helpful to me, so if that works the same for you I’d highly encourage you to get on it, even if it feels a bit awkward or forced at first. This isn’t very band-specific, but I do also think it’s important to think about people you know who might be alone and not be loving it at the moment and make time to have a call with them, especially if they’re the sort that might not have the confidence or means to reach out themselves.

Bands though, I think we’re all pretty stuck, to be honest! It’s been cool to see some people do Livestream bits, and it’s a real shame that the four of us couldn’t get together to make a racket and stick it on the internet live or something. But it is what it is sadly.

That’s as good advice as any! It’s nice to hear that. I think a lot of music fans, through no fault of their own, rely so heavily on these cohesive noises yet perhaps sometimes forget how the very bands are doing themselves. 
I know you’ve been reading a lot, but what have you been listening to recently?

Any discoveries you care to rate and sell to those reading this? It doesn’t necessarily need to be Hardcore, although I personally wouldn’t complain!

While I’m working I’m listening to a fair bit of stuff that isn’t Hardcore. I’ve been enjoying Numenorean’s ‘Adore’ and Holy Fawn’s ‘Death Spells’ for some nice background music.  It’s not a new release, but on the more Hardcore side, I’m still really enjoying Geist – ‘Swarming Season’ that came out last year. It’s an absolute savage, crusty, gritty rager – really sound lads too. If you get a chance to see them play, do it! Finally, I have to mention Conjurer’s ‘Mire”‘, because I haven’t stopped listening to that since it came out in 2018. 

I shall update my list! 

I’ve been thinking recently how the music scene will look after all this. From your perspective, how has the support for this thing we all do been and what do you theorise any prospective changes to the greater music scene to be post-COVID-19? Obviously we’ve had all the live-streams, merch pushes, the bandcamp events as well as numerable unique and/or charity releases doing the rounds. Do you think operations will return to the pre-norm or into something more newly-unique?

The cynic in me thinks that almost everything will go back to how it was before this lockdown. Which in the grand scheme of things band-wise is fine. The bands who are already good at social media will continue to smash it on those platforms, companies like bandcamp will continue to run promotions where and when there is an opportunity to generate sales or elevate brand. Obviously charity releases I imagine will continue, and the Punk scene, in particular, has a robust track record for that stuff. 

Some of the unique things this virus has brought however will be a real shame to be forgotten, like the seemingly sudden canonisation of the NHS and the lionization of working-class people in the mainstream, and even apparently the conservative imagination. This situation has made it very apparent, very quickly that those people underpin the very functioning of our society while being paid fuck all, and sadly enough I think that will all too quickly and conveniently be forgotten the second that the risk is gone.

So yeah, in-keeping with everything else that I’ve said so far, I would like to confirm that no, it is evident that I am not very fun at parties.

The cynic in you would socialise well with the cynic in me. I’d like to see all of what we had doubly prominent to be honest, music has become so much more important now people have seen that those who make it aren’t invincible so to speak and don’t just churn it out cost-free. Would you agree that more light has now been shed on that segment of the bitter-sweet orange that is the Punk scene?

I could rant, type and even go old-school and quill a chronicle in response to your middle paragraph there. If this crisis has proven anything, it is that the vast majority of our “representatives” and greater system lacks understanding. I’ve worked in service and retail for years and I have recently returned to the latter because of all this and you’d be surprised how many people are suddenly thankful…

Ha! Surely that would be entirely dependant on the type of soiree, wouldn’t it? There always that corner of serious and quite possibly inebriated intellectual discourse. Or is there? Oh no, maybe I’m no fun at parties either… I should probably read up on Love Island or something.

Yeah, I guess it has, and that’s a really good point. I can certainly say for us this isn’t an endeavour that nets us bags full of cash, and in fact, most of the time we come out in the red with what the band costs us vs what it recuperates. That’s not to say that’s unusual. When you get into this band lark you know that’s what you’re signing up for. If nothing else this situation has probably brought it to people’s attention that most bands they love are only a psychological bump here, or a financial bump there, away from choosing to pack it in, or being unable to continue. 

People have been really cool to us since lockdown, we’ve not pushed especially hard but we’ve had a fair few people buying shirts, and some asking us to hold them one for when things stabilise a bit. As much as we’d love everyone to be throwing cash at us it’s really important to remember that our friends who come to our gigs and support us by buying our stuff are just as fucked as we are at the moment, and some immeasurably more so. What would we even spend it on now there are no gigs for us to burn fuel on, anyway?! 

I think the whole attitude towards the purveyors of entertainment definitely makes it harder to see that. I would strongly assume that to many, bands in the scene are often viewed the same way as famous actors and such, ‘[…] they just make things and we see them eventually, they don’t do normal things like us, do they?!’. I’d say that’s arguably human nature to a point but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t irk me somewhat.

Ha! That’s a tough one! Lessons on being fun at parties perhaps?

Well, Nathan, I have but one more question for you. Fast-forward to a time where this is done and the live circuit is returning and you’re tasked with putting on two consecutive all-dayer events. The first is full of 10 high-profile big names from the Punk and Hardcore scene and the second, 10 from the current underground and DIY crop. Obviously, all nationalities are welcome in both and the former can have some posthumous appearances because time is but a construct.

I could spend ages ruminating on this but I’ll just go with my gut for what I’m feeling right now:

Converge, Cursed, Baptists, Birds in Row, Portrayal of Guilt, Gouge Away, Dead in the Dirt, Hesitation Wounds, Dropdead, His Hero Is Gone.

Underdark, Geist, Negative Measures, Follow Your Dreams, Glarus, Natterers, Petrol Girls, Harrowed, Kalpa, Salvo.

If you had a thousand Nathan Miles-es you’d sell a thousand tickets to that. 

I hear cloning could be an option…
Thanks for your time Nathan! Hopefully, I’ll to see you down the front soon enough.

My pleasure. Thanks for taking the time out to chat. Look forward to seeing you at a show soon.

Cheers, keep well and stay safe.

Well, that was, “Lifecore: Nathan Miles Of Fatalist”. When all this over, if you can, go and see them live, I know I will be. Find all you need on the band below:

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