Jon Lee

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The Independent Online

Jon Lee, drummer: born Newport, Gwent 28 March 1968; married 2000 Tatiana Englehart (one son); died Miami, Florida 7 January 2002.

The drummer Jon Lee was an integral part of Feeder, the hardworking, alternative rock band currently in the Top Twenty with "Just a Day". Lee formed the trio with his fellow Welshman Grant Nicholas in 1995 and played a crucial role in establishing them on the festival circuit. Last year Feeder scored four consecutive hit singles, while Echo Park, their third album, sold 300,000 copies world-wide; the group also supported Stereophonics on their recent arena tour.

Born in Newport in 1968, Jon Lee excelled at running and thought of becoming a sprinter until he suffered a leg injury when he was 14. Throughout the late Eighties and early Nineties, Lee played with the guitarist and singer Nicholas in the South Wales area. However, their band Temper Temper failed to make any headway, and when Nicholas got a job as a tape-operator in a recording studio he relocated to London in 1992. He spent the next three years trying to convince Lee to join him: they could always use the downtime in the studio to cut demo tapes and try to get a record deal.

When the drummer eventually arrived in London in 1995, he and Nicholas recruited the Japanese bassist Taka Hirose through a small ad and picked the name Feeder after Nicholas's former pet fish. Modelling themselves on Nirvana and the Police, the trio signed to the Echo label, the indie imprint set up by Chris Wright's Chrysalis multi-media company. I remember spending a hilarious lunch hour with them in the offices at Chrysalis as we contemplated whether to raid the neighbouring Heart FM studios to secure unlikely airplay for their brand of raucous power-pop on the AOR station.

Forming as they did at the height of Britpop, Feeder's grungy, punky sound, more akin to American groups like the Smashing Pumpkins, didn't catch on instantly. But the band were determined, played every toilet in Britain and developed their own following. The mini-album Swim, issued in 1996, was followed by Polythene, their first album proper released in May the following year. UK festival appearances helped Feeder move up the pecking order and in October 1997 the infectious "High" got into the Top Thirty.

Nineteen ninety-eight saw the group undertake a gruelling 125-date tour of America. They also completed work on their second album, Yesterday Went Too Soon, which was issued in early 1999 and made the Top Ten. Lee broke his ankle during the subsequent UK tour but soldiered on to complete the remaining dates, reorganising his drumkit so he could play with a cast.

Feeder's progress remained steady and, after appearances at the Reading, Leeds and Glastonbury festivals, they headlined at the Brixton Academy in October 1999. The group ended the year and the millennium on a high, joining Super Furry Animals and Manic Street Preachers to play to 55,000 revellers at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

In 2000, Feeder travelled to Australia for the first time. Later that year, Lee married the Brazilian model Tatiana Englehart in Florida, and the couple settled to a new life in Miami and soon had a son. The drummer didn't seem fazed by the commute between London and Miami. "You get used to flying," he would tell interviewers.

However, progress on Feeder's third album proved rather problematic, with Nicholas clashing with fellow band members and with the album's producer Gil Norton (who also worked with the Pixies and Foo Fighters). All the hard work proved worthwhile when the first single from the Echo Park album, the catchy "Buck Rogers" entered the charts at No 5. At last it looked as if Feeder would be promoted to the premier league of British bands. They appeared on Top Of The Pops and CD:UK, and filmed a video in Cape Town for the follow-up single "Seven Days In The Sun".

"I don't care what anyone thinks is cool or whatever," stated Lee last year.

I want to be in the charts all the time, it's just fantastic. We've worked our bollocks off since we started with no money whatsoever, to get to this point. You see young bands on the road, making fools of themselves, trashing their dressing rooms.

To me, that's a waste of effort, wasting your money by getting drunk and stoned. Mind you, if I was 21 or 22, with all the success, maybe I wouldn't be alive. But I'm 33. I'm not interested in wrecking my family for anything or anybody. People say: you're a madman. I'm not at all.

Just before Christmas, Feeder supported Stereophonics around Europe and recorded a cover of the Police's "I Can't Stand Losing You", a long-time live favourite with fans, for the EP Just A Day.

Paying tribute to his charming and vibrant bandmate, Nicholas said: "I've known him for 15 years. There was a real bond between the two of us. We're utterly devastated. We will miss him more than melody." Nicholas has also promised to carry on with Feeder.

Pierre Perrone

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