As if a fascinating career in international journalism wasn’t enough, Smoke Feathers frontman Matt Falloon talks to TIM HUGHES about his life-long devotion to music.

EVERY band worth their salt has lurid stories to tell about life on the road – the more hair-raising the better.

But while most artists’ tales begin and end with hazily-recalled incidents of rock ’n’ roll excess, wild partying and maybe the odd scuffle or brush with the law, few get close to the antics of Matt Falloon.

The frontman of alternative-soul band Smoke Feathers has certainly been around the block a bit – not that he’d brag about it. Pry just a little, though, and the floodgates open.

A musician since he was in short-trousers, Kent boy Matt started off conventionally enough with the usual stint in the church choir and starting up his own school band.

But that’s where it ends.

Earning a place at Cambridge University to study medicine, he was forced to drop out due to illness, ending up bed-ridden for two years with post-viral fatigue syndrome after catching glandular fever.

On returning to uni he took up English literature and, once again, threw himself into bands – appearing alongside musical luminaries, including Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor.

Then things go a bit odd. After finishing his degree, Matt decided to become a journalist, and wrote to newspapers around the world asking for a job. He got one – at the Stabroek News in Guyana, on South America’s Caribbean coast.

There he spent two years on the trail of gold miners, loggers, and machete-waving rioters, swigging rum with Amazonian diamond miners, and meeting his future wife – a Guyanese journalist on a rival paper.

With a thirst for adventure he moved on to Kingston, Jamaica, where he became a crime reporter in one of the world’s most crime-ridden cities – braving hurricanes, mudslides and armed muggers.

Now back in the UK with his wife, and working as a political correspondent for Reuters, he is facing his biggest challenge yet – cracking the music industry. And, true to form, he is doing rather well.

Teaming up with a bunch of old schoolmates, his band Smoke Feathers (from an American Indian myth about how the raven got its black feathers), Matt, 35, is earning some high-powered friends from quarters as diverse as Shaun Ryder, Miles Hunt from Wonder Stuff and Nigel Clark of Dodgy, who they are now supporting.

“I’ve always done music alongside everything else,” he tells me, while grabbing a few moments between interviews at the Houses of Parliament.

“I do still dream of being able to give up the job, but I’ve never been in a position to without being on the breadline. Still, you can do a lot even while working, in terms of gigging and recording.

“And fortunately I’ve got an understanding boss!”

He admits to some satisfaction that, all those years after starting out, he is still pursuing his dream.

“We’ve been playing music since we were 11,” he laughs. “Of all the people playing in bands when we grew up, we’re the last ones standing. And it’s all coming together for us. We’re still passionate and are making the best music we ever have. It’s part of all our lives.”

Inevitably his music, written over many years, reflects his experiences both at home and in the Tropics. One song, Light Over Me, for example is about his mother being sectioned under the Mental Health Act, while another, Liberation, is inspired by a chant yelled by protesters during a riot in the Guyanese capital, Georgetown.

“I love soul music, reggae and classic rock,” he says. “I call our music alternative soul. I like good melodies and songs that mean things. There’s so much music out there that isn’t connected to anything real, with words just written to fit melodies for the radio. I prefer people like Carol King, who wrote about stuff that happened to her. I hope our music has credibility too.

“I take real pride in crafting songs,” he goes on. ”Some have taken a long time to finish, and some are based on specific events.

“There’s a lot of Kent, bits and pieces of family life, and lots of my experiences of travelling around South America and the Caribbean, like getting caught in riots. It has influenced me heavily as a person. In fact, I came back a different person, which shocked a few people.”

But can we also rely on a few tales of debauchery among the soul-searching? Well, no.

“Being away made me clean-up my life,” he says. “I’m now much healthier. I came back to the UK and saw my friends totally smashed every weekend, but I stopped doing that and started taking life more seriously.

“Music is everything to me,” he goes on. “And I believe in always performing with emotion and great honesty. After all, you can’t pretend to be something you’re not.”

* Smoke Feathers support Dodgy at the Bullingdon, Oxford, on Sunday, February 26. Also playing are Oxford’s Black Hats. Tickets are £15 from