Kasabian Interview

By shane

KASABIAN are easily one of our favorite bands of the past year. Any record that makes our 2004 poll as one of the year's best has to be good... the fact that Kasabian managed to do it without a US release is even more impressive. Finally, that situation is rectified. The record's out in the States on March 8 (at a reduced price!), and the band is embarking on their first US tour opening for The Music. We were EXTREMELY excited to have our Shane sit down with Kasabian bassist Chris Edwards for a chat just prior to the tour's East Coast kickstart. Just expand this article by clicking "READ MORE" to check out the interview.

EO: You guys managed to produce the record yourselves. That's not too common to see from a debut record on a major label. Was it important to you guys to produce your own work? Did you get any static from the label for it?

CE: We did have a producer in at the start, and we did a couple of tracks with him, but it wasn't what we wanted. It was going a bit too far. We wanted it to be more organic, and he ended up kind of changing our music a bit too much and trying to become the sixth member, like he was part of the band and stuff. It just wasn't working. So we just told the label to look, let us produce it ourselves, and then we'll get some guy to mix it. Luckily, they agreed to it, and it ended up pretty cool.

EO: The press tends to make a big fuss about the fact that you guys recorded the record while living together out in a farmhouse in the country. The thing that strikes us the most about that is when you listen to the record, the last thing you think of is 'serene country setting.' Was it a weird juxtaposition to be out in the middle of nowhere recording these urban funky-ass rock songs?

CE: Yeah, yeah. We'd gone away to the farm just for some head space, y'know. If we were back at home with all our friends and that, we'd just be out with them all the time partying and completely distracting us. So we just decided to go out to this farmhouse where we could practice. We had a rehearsal studio out there where we could play live and then a studio where we could record and make the album. And there was just a bedroom where we all just kind of crashed out. I mean, It was more like a squat than a house.

EO: So what're your feelings on making it in the States? The British press consistently runs headlines like, "COLDPLAY RULES THE USA," when in reality they're not exactly a household name over here. Is conquering the States and getting headlines like that really important to you guys? Does the Kasabian masterplan include a phrase that goes, "Must... break... America!"?

CE: It's all about if America takes you, innit? I don't think it's our choice. We'll put in as much work as we can, as much work as the American people want us to. If you guys want us to play, and you embrace us, then we'll be over here and we'll be playing all the time. It's not the be-all-end-all to crack America, but it WOULD be nice, y'know? You crack America, and then I can go back home and sit in my guitar-shaped swimming pool, only after I drive my Rolls Royce in it.

EO: Well, I'm sure the influences question gets asked of you all the time... if for no other reason than you guys seem to have the uncanny knack at sounding like the best bits of 20 different bands at once. Do you guys routinely cite any particular influences, or is it more of a hodge-podge?

CE: Yeah, a hodge-podge, exactly, mate. People all the time say, "Oh, yeah, you're like the Happy Mondays." We're fucking nothing like the Happy Mondays, y'know what I mean? It's like you said, we sound like 20 different bands. I think people just find it hard to pigeonhole us. They want to be able to pigeonhole us, they can't say, "Oh, this is actually quite new." One track, y'know, probably does sound like a certain song, but then the next track we can sound totally different. So it's like you say, it's just a mix and match of all of our favorite music. Classical to hip-hop to blues, it's just music, y'know, everything we listened to. From when we were born, we were listening to music. Everything since then's just got into our heads and now it's just been spat back out.

EO: Quite the eclectic record collections, then?

CE: Yeah, exactly. We're not a band that's banging to hip-hop, or banging to rock and roll, or banging to grunge music, know what I mean? Well, [laughing,] there ARE some seriously shit bands out there that we don't get into. But if it's good, it's good.

EO: Pigeonholing discussion aside, you guys DO have a dancier, Primal Scream-y element to your music, with the bass being just as important a lead instrument as the guitar. Was that sound always in the gameplan, or did it evolve as you came together and wrote?

CE: I dunno... Some of the songs on the album actually started with just a drum beat and then we just put the bass on top of that. They were usually the first two things, so they just predominantly rose to the top, and that's what kind of comes out in the music more. It was never really a thing, y'know, we never actually sat down and thought, "We've got to do this, we've got to do that." It just happened that way. It was what it was, you know what I mean?

EO: Lately having a dance element to your music is bad news for a band unless you're more of the aggro, rigid Bloc Party/LCD Soundsystem kind of group. Did you guys find it hard bringing out a sound that's more laid-back and baggy?

CE: I dunno. I mean, we broke on the scene in the UK pretty quickly. I think that was more because we played, like, 130 shows last year. We went round the UK and did what must have been 10 or 11 tours last year. We just really kind of tuned into the people of the UK, and then when the album came out and we played the festivals in the summer, it was just like, "whoa." We just kind of connected that way. Because, I think, if people hadn't heard us live, then they wouldn't have gone out and bought the album like they did. We'd just be another band that noone had heard of. We're certainly different live than we are on the record. A lot of people have said we sound better live than we do on the record. That's just a praise in itself, hearing stuff like that is amazing. I think that's why we got nominated for Best Live Act at the Brits this year, we got put up with the greats. And that's amazing.

EO: So what's your take on the state of British music these days? Over here in the States, UK music always reaches us in the form of a trend -- Madchester or shoegaze or Britpop or what-have-you. Now it seems that bands over there are more spread out and there's less of a scene to latch on to. Do you agree with that, and if so, is it a good thing for bands to be coming of age now without a dominant scene to latch onto?

CE: Yeah, I think it is. At the time when we came to age last year, everyone was shit. We'd look at the Top 40 or whatever, we'd look at the top album charts, and all you get are some of the safest bands you've ever seen in your life...

EO: 20 bands trying to sound like Coldplay, or 20 bands trying to sound like they just walked out of CBGB's.

CE: Exactly! And it ended up being a good time for us, because I think we brought life back into British music. There ARE some other bands that have done the same, like the Zutons and people like that. I get on with their music because they've got such a different style, they've got some class about them. It WAS a good time, because the British scene needed it. Like Tom says, the scene needed us or someone else like us to give it a kick up the ass. It just needed electricity back into it, coz it was just stale and killing everyone.

EO: One of the things I love the most about you guys is that you've drafting in some brilliant talent to do your remixes. Jagz Kooner, Afrika fucking Bambaataa, man, how'd you get him on board?

CE: [Laughing.] I think Grandmaster Flash did one at one stage. I don't know what record that's on, or where it's even gone to, but it's been done. The remixes were really just kind of put forward to us, and we just say yes or no. We've actually got The Go! Team working on one for us now, so that's really cool. Those remixes, we don't like doing them ourselves, there's no point, y'know? The songs are our babies, we bore them, and we're not sending them in for plastic surgery ourselves.

EO: So you guys are playing out in the States with The Music. Is that gonna be a good fit, you two bands?

CE: Yeah, yeah, I do, actually. I like The Music, they've got some wicked tunes, yeah? I seen 'em at Summersonic in Japan last year. They're a good band, and they're pretty similar to us as well, with a kind of danceable rock. It's a good bill. I'll tell you what, if I wasn't in this band, I'd be buying my ticket.

EO: What's your preference of venue? Do you think the music connects with the crowd better in smaller venues, or do you prefer playing festivals?

CE: Wow, I dunno. I like a bit of both, actually. We played some massive arenas recently. We did two gigs with The Who last year. They just rang us up and said, y'know, The Who want to play with you, and we were just, "Err, okay." I don't think we believed it at start, actually, since we told our management to bollocks. But those gigs were a completely new experience for us. We grew up in 200 capacity dingy venues, know what I mean? But those places have a lot more life, and we like connecting with the audience and really giving it a real rock-and-roll, ballsy show. It doesn't really matter to us, I guess. I enjoy a mix.

EO: You guys have really been rolling in the accolades lately. Between The Who and Liam and Mani all calling you tops, does it get a bit intimidating when somebody like that calls you up a member of their club?

CE: No, it's just weird. [laughing] You meet all these people -- and I'm not, like, bringin' 'em down or anything -- but they're just people at the end of the day. Don't get me wrong, they're amazing at what they do, but... it is pretty strange, but we just get on with it, y'know. We seem to fit in quite well. Some of us like all the showbiz stuff and going out to all the parties and stuff, and a couple of us in the band just like chilling out and not being bothered with all that showbiz crap. You can take it or leave it, y'know what I mean? You mentioned Liam. He came down to one of our shows in London one time and just watched the show. He spoke to us afterwards and told us we were a good band and stuff. I mean, that's pretty awesome that people like that actually know about us. That's what's scary. I mean, he comes up and is like, "I've got your album," and it's like, "Fucking hell. Why have YOU got it? I was buying your stuff, today you're buying mine!" [Laughing] Next thing, he'll be asking me for my autograph, d'you know what I mean? Shit!

EO: It seems like the best thing you guys have going for you right now is that you're one of the few bands around right now making NME covers based on the music alone, and not for marrying Gwyneth Paltrow or escaping from a Thai rehab monastery.

CE: That's exactly it. There's no story around the band, it's just the music, y'know? And that's what it should be about. Who cares if you go out and get smacked out your tits or whatever. It shouldn't be about that. You get a lot of stories in the papers about bands doing this, and bands doing that. You know, don't talk about it. Why do people want to know about that shit? All I wanna know is if the music's any good. Put down the paper and put on the fucking CD, y'know? If it's good, respect the CD no matter what they do in the press. All the rest is bullshit.

EO: So to sum up, why should people get out to one of your American gigs?

CE: It'll be a more rock-and-roll show than the album. It'll be fucking loud... if The Music let us turn it up. Just a great fucking show, y'know what I mean? Come down, have a few beers, that's about it, really.