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Interviews   

Airbourne, a tale of humble glory


Airbourne weren’t asking for much – just the opportunity to get on stage and talk about sex, alcohol, and parties, just like their idols and fellow countrymen of AC/DC, Rose Tattoo or The Angels. But these guys were literally hungry for that small opportunity, and they fought to get it, as they explain in the song “Hungry” from their latest album, Black Dog Barking. This autobiographical song echoes the hellish moments every band has ever known.

And in the end, for Airbourne and the team around them, the biggest feat is to have finally made it.

Singer/guitarist Joel O’Keeffe talks about all this with the enthusiasm and simplicity that are not only his trademark, but also that of Airbourne’s music.

« The Glory here is to play shows, being happy and play rock’n’roll. »

Radio Metal: The previous album was called No Guts, No Glory. Did this album bring you the glory you were looking for?

Joel O’Keefe (vocals, guitars): No Guts No Glory was all about putting your foot to the floor and going hard! The Glory here is to play shows, being happy and play rock’n’roll. We had a lot of fun doing it and took it as far as we could during two years. When a band gets together with a road crew, it’s a team and the guts and the glory go out to all these guys: that’s what we also wanted to meant by that.

This new album is called Black Dog Barking. Who are those black dogs and why are they barking?

In the English literature, the black dog is a metaphor. For instance, Winston Churchill had a black dog barking while England was living its darkest days during the Second World War. The black dog is the mystical beast that comes into your brains when you’re depressed, angry or stressed. If you fuck around, the black dog is going to rip your head off! That’s what we do: we’re the black dogs of rock’n’roll and we’re coming to get you !

Last September, it was announced that you had finished writing the album and that you were looking for a studio and a producer. Did you have a lot a offers?

We actually took a lot of time: we went around America for a couple of months looking for one. We met with Brian Howes and got along well with him. He’s got a studio and he’s a great producer. You know, we met lots of cool guys during our trip but Brian really understands the band, what we’re about and what rock’n’roll is. He just took the chance to do the record, so he and his engineer, Jay, were the best for us at the time. We’ve had the best experience ever working with those guys. We really let Brian in the circle: it was like Bob Rock and his work with Metallica on their Black Album. Meeting Brian is like meeting a guy who loves the same music you grew up on, the same music that made you form a band and the same music that gives you some good time. He’s that kind of guy: you know, Brian is one of us.

Did he have a word to say about the music?

Well, in every circumstance, a producer has a word to say as he produces the record. Brian had his own vision, we had ours, so sometimes we clashed on things and we agreed on others. That’s the way it goes and that’s what makes the best performances. When you work with a producer, you can’t fight all the time with him, because you won’t get anything done. That was never the case with Brian, because when we had a good idea, for instance, he would embrace it as well. There is no idea that we won’t try: he’s a really great producer. If someone said to us “You’re going to record your next album tomorrow”, we’ll choose him again.

(About the « Hungry » song) « It’s more a biography about the band and all what we did : we started as a band that got together, jumped in a van and drove three hours to play shows in Melbourne, where we didn’t get paid sometimes. […] If you want it, you keep on going: the song is about that hunger that drives you. »

There’s a song called « Hungry ». Does that song talk about you guys, being hungry for music, hungry for shows, hungry for life?

Yes, mate, you’re very correct there! It’s more a biography about the band and all what we did : we started as a band that got together, jumped in a van and drove three hours to play shows in Melbourne, where we didn’t get paid sometimes. Other times, we would drive to Sydney, which is far from our home, and the van would break down. If you want it, you keep on going : the song is about that hunger that drives you. The song is about four guys in a band and the people who want to rock’n’roll with them and also help them: the fans, if you want to call them like that. We call them “our rockers”. We’re maybe more hungrier than when we started: rock’n’roll is an addiction, you know !

Is the song « A Woman Like That » dedicated to someone in particular?

No. If you take a look at it, you would see that there are three women in that song. One of them is a cop: women are pretty hot when they’re dressed up in uniform! The two others are a stewardess and a stripper, I think. If you’re on an aeroplane for instance, and you haven’t seen the stewardess for a long time, you press the button and she comes to you asking what would you like while you’re thinking about all the things she can’t give you!

The first track of the album, “Ready To Rock” is the new version of the one on your first self-produced EP. What made you work on this song again?

It’s ten years, mate, since that was done: it’s the ten years anniversary, so that was one of the reasons. The main reason is that this songs deserves more than just an EP. We play this song live, on every tour. We needed to record this song properly, even if we still love the original version of it. We also want everybody to have this song because we want to play it live. It’s a really great song: it kicks ass !

Do you think you’ll do that with the other songs on this EP, which is by the way very hard to find?

Oh, I really don’t know. We really love “Ready To Rock”: the new version has a lot of influences from different ideas we had at the time when we recorded the EP, but that we couldn’t record on it because of lack of time. The Ready To Rock EP is its own thing, really.

Can we expect someday a re-release of this EP?

We know that it’s very hard to find. Sometimes you see it on Ebay going for 700 or even 1000 euros or pounds! I can’t remember how many EP we printed: 2000 or 1500? I don’t know. We used to sell this EP at gigs in Melbourne or Sydney so that we could pay the van’s fuel bill and drive to the next gig. We’ll never re-release it officially but having that said, you’ll never know. We may do that in the future, but now, no.

« When I started [climbing the stage structure], I used to have a fear of heights, which was a problem when climbing up to the top with my guitar! But I sort of cured it by doing it several times. »

Black Dogs Barking is your third album and you’re known for being more than excellent on stage. Isn’t it the moment for you to do a live album? Do you have some plans about that?

One day, we’ll do a live album, yes. During the last tour, we recorded a thing at the Wacken festival that ended up on TV in Germany. I think it’s time for us now to do an officially live album, yes.

You frequently climb on the stage structure. Do you remember the first time you did it?

Well, yes: the first time was at a festival in Australia, maybe back in 2005. We were really young, almost teenagers.

How did you get the idea to do it?

When you’re in a band, when nobody’s know you and that you’re in a festival, one way to get the crowd’s attention is to do something they might have never seen before. Crawling up to the top of the festival and starting to play your solos on the roof generally gets people’s attention, like “What the fuck is that???”. At the time, it was just get people take notice of the band and now it’s part of the show. Personally, being on top of the roof and seeing everybody is the best feeling in the world: I get to see the whole crowd and all the way back to the food tents, the camping ground and the whole damn thing. I love it every single time!

What do you feel while doing it? Aren’t you scared?

Well, funnily not. When I started doing it, I used to have a fear of heights, which was a problem when climbing up to the top with my guitar! But I sort of cured it by doing it several times. I love it: it’s like riding a rollercoaster without rails! It’s great!

 » I love AC/DC, mate: it’s like somebody comparing your car to the Ford Mustang of rock’n’roll! That means we’ve got a good motor, a good chassis, a good speed and rhythm: it’s the best comparison you can have. »

You’re constantly compared to AC/DC. Press and fans both call you the new AC/DC, actually. What do you have in common with AC/DC and what is different, in your opinion?

It’s just rock’n’roll, you know! (laughs) AC/DC wrote “It’s A Long Way To The Top If You Want To Rock’n’Roll” and that’s what we’re doing. We love AC/DC. It’s an Australian band: they were and there are still my favourite fucking band. Along with AC/DC, there is another band, also Australian, that I love: Rose Tattoo. You have also The Angels. All these bands had good songs, it was all about sex, drinking or booze: that’s what we grew up upon. That’s what we loved and still love up to this day. They inspire us: it’s the best rock in the world.

Aren’t you bored of hearing such comparison?

No, no way! It’s the best one you can have. It’s better than hearing “You sound like a shit !” (laughs) I love AC/DC, mate: it’s like somebody comparing your car to the Ford Mustang of rock’n’roll! That means we’ve got a good motor, a good chassis, a good speed and rhythm: it’s the best comparison you can have and there’s no doubt about it!

Interview conducted by phone on March 13th, 2013
Transcription: Jean Martinez – Traduction(s) Net

Airbourne’s official website: www.airbournerock.com

Album Black Dog Barking, out since May 20th, 2013 via Roadrunner Records.



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