Death in Vegas are a psychedelic rock and electronic rock band from the United Kingdom, comprising two permanent members: Richard Fearless (né Richard McGuire) and Tim Holmes. Influenced by a wide range of musical genres including psychedelic rock, electronica, krautrock, dub and industrial, the band's sound is constantly changing, moving between live rock sounds, electronica and minimal techno. The band was formed in 1994 by Fearless and Steve Hellier and signed to Concrete Records under the name of "Dead Elvis". Objections from the Elvis Presley estate forced them to change their name, and Dead Elvis became the title of their first album instead. Dead Elvis
The first album, Dead Elvis, was a mixture of many musical genres, although most of the tracks are predominantly based in electronica. Many of the band's musical influences can be heard in the tracks, with "GBH" taking inspiration from reggae, "Rekkit" and "Rocco" taking inspiration from techno, and "Rematerialised" showing the band's dub influences. The track "Dirt", perhaps the most misleading track on the album, became tied to the big beat genre that emerged in the mid- to late-1990s (contrary to popular belief, DiV were not a big beat band), and "All that Glitters" is a jazzy, laid back track that almost evokes the trip-hop genre. Shortly after the release of the album, Hellier left the band and was replaced by Tim Holmes, who had already been involved with mixing and engineering tracks on Dead Elvis.
The Contino Sessions
The band's second album, The Contino Sessions (1999), marked a slight change in direction with more attention to live instrumentation than their first and the inclusion of guest vocalists (including Dot Allison, Bobby Gillespie, Iggy Pop, and Jim Reid). Although predominantly rock-influenced, the album still retained some electronic elements, in particular the opening track "Dirge" with its drum machine-based rhythm track. "Dirge", featuring a haunting vocal chant by Allison, is perhaps one of the band's most recognisable tracks. "Dirge" was featured on a Levi's jeans commercial, as well as the second installment of the Blair Witch Project, and was used in the trailer for the 2006 film The Black Dahlia (film). Although, most recently "Dirge" was used at the end of the updated 2009 version of suspense film: Last House On The Left. Along with "Aisha" (with vocals from Iggy Pop), "Dirge" helped the band gain more recognition, culminating in a Mercury Music Prize nomination in 2000. "Aisha" was a top 10 hit in the UK.
In September 2002, the band released its third album, Scorpio Rising, after almost a three year gap. During their time off, the band had toured and briefly returned to their techno roots with the track "Scorpio", which, although not appearing on any album, was included as the b-side of "Hands Around My Throat", the first single from Scorpio Rising. Scorpio Rising takes its name from the cult avant-garde film of the same name by Kenneth Anger. Anger's distinctive aesthetic style, rebellious use of pop music, and a theme of gay Nazi bike-riders became an inspirational film for filmmakers, artists and musicians. Fearless was inspired by the film and decided to name the album after it, with the lyrics of the title track (featuring vocals from Liam Gallagher) reflecting the controversial nature of Anger's film. The rest of the album remained a similar affair to The Contino Sessions, with attention to live instrumentation and guest vocalists, and it also continued to attract attention from advertisers and filmmakers with "Hands Around My Throat" being used in a Sony Ericsson advert and appearing on the soundtrack to The Animatrix, while the track "Girls" was used on the soundtrack to the Sofia Coppola film Lost in Translation, as well as in an episode of the TV show Veronica Mars and a commercial for BBC's most recent production of Sense and Sensibility. This was their last studio album for Concrete Records. Concrete released a best-of album, entitled Milk It, in 2004.
Death in Vegas set up their own label, Drone Records (not to be confused with the existing German label of the same name) and released their fourth album, Satan's Circus, in 2004. Satan's Circus is markedly different from the rock-influenced The Contino Sessions and Scorpio Rising. It features a more electronic sound, with drum machines, synthesizers and programmed rhythms largely replacing live bass, guitar and drums. German krautrock was also a significant influence - the melody of Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express" is featured in the track "Zugaga". This led some fans to be disappointed, while others saw this as a return to some of the hypnotic instrumentals included on Dead Elvis. Unlike the previous two albums, Satan's Circus did not feature any guest vocalists. The album was also released as a limited edition double pack including a live CD, recorded on the Scorpio Rising tour at the Brixton Academy, London.