Airbourne werenâ€™t asking for much â€“ 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 â€śHungryâ€ť 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 Oâ€™Keeffe talks about all this with the enthusiasm and simplicity that are not only his trademark, but also that of Airbourneâ€™s music.
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 rockâ€™nâ€™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, itâ€™s a team and the guts and the glory go out to all these guys: thatâ€™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 youâ€™re depressed, angry or stressed. If you fuck around, the black dog is going to rip your head off! Thatâ€™s what we do: weâ€™re the black dogs of rockâ€™nâ€™roll and weâ€™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. Heâ€™s got a studio and heâ€™s a great producer. You know, we met lots of cool guys during our trip but Brian really understands the band, what weâ€™re about and what rockâ€™nâ€™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. Weâ€™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. Heâ€™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. Thatâ€™s the way it goes and thatâ€™s what makes the best performances. When you work with a producer, you canâ€™t fight all the time with him, because you wonâ€™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 wonâ€™t try: heâ€™s a really great producer. If someone said to us â€śYouâ€™re going to record your next album tomorrowâ€ť, weâ€™ll choose him again.
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, youâ€™re very correct there! Itâ€™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 didnâ€™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 rockâ€™nâ€™roll with them and also help them: the fans, if you want to call them like that. We call them â€śour rockersâ€ť. Weâ€™re maybe more hungrier than when we started: rockâ€™nâ€™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 theyâ€™re dressed up in uniform! The two others are a stewardess and a stripper, I think. If youâ€™re on an aeroplane for instance, and you havenâ€™t seen the stewardess for a long time, you press the button and she comes to you asking what would you like while youâ€™re thinking about all the things she canâ€™t give you!
The first track of the album, â€śReady To Rockâ€ť is the new version of the one on your first self-produced EP. What made you work on this song again?
Itâ€™s ten years, mate, since that was done: itâ€™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. Itâ€™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 donâ€™t know. We really love â€śReady To Rockâ€ť: the new version has a lot of influences from different ideas we had at the time when we recorded the EP, but that we couldnâ€™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 itâ€™s very hard to find. Sometimes you see it on Ebay going for 700 or even 1000 euros or pounds! I canâ€™t remember how many EP we printed: 2000 or 1500? I donâ€™t know. We used to sell this EP at gigs in Melbourne or Sydney so that we could pay the vanâ€™s fuel bill and drive to the next gig. Weâ€™ll never re-release it officially but having that said, youâ€™ll never know. We may do that in the future, but now, no.
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, weâ€™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 itâ€™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 youâ€™re in a band, when nobodyâ€™s know you and that youâ€™re in a festival, one way to get the crowdâ€™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 peopleâ€™s attention, like â€śWhat the fuck is that???â€ť. At the time, it was just get people take notice of the band and now itâ€™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? Arenâ€™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: itâ€™s like riding a rollercoaster without rails! Itâ€™s great!
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?
Itâ€™s just rockâ€™nâ€™roll, you know! (laughs) AC/DC wrote â€śItâ€™s A Long Way To The Top If You Want To Rockâ€™nâ€™Rollâ€ť and thatâ€™s what weâ€™re doing. We love AC/DC. Itâ€™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: thatâ€™s what we grew up upon. Thatâ€™s what we loved and still love up to this day. They inspire us: itâ€™s the best rock in the world.
Aren’t you bored of hearing such comparison?
No, no way! Itâ€™s the best one you can have. Itâ€™s better than hearing â€śYou sound like a shit !â€ť (laughs) I love AC/DC, mate: itâ€™s like somebody comparing your car to the Ford Mustang of rockâ€™nâ€™roll! That means weâ€™ve got a good motor, a good chassis, a good speed and rhythm: itâ€™s the best comparison you can have and thereâ€™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.
This post is also available in: French