KASABIAN PARADISE

Interview | Kasabian – Tom Meighan & Sergio Pizzorno – 2017

interview by Kasabian Paradise: Sandrine LILSAN, Hélène SANTI, Alan VAN BRACKEL; photography by Alan VAN BRACKEL.

If we can be nervous and excited before meeting Kasabian, it generally ends up the same way: a nice conversation about music and stuff. Today, the meeting has been nicely set up in a very cosy hotel room in Paris, near La Madeleine, not the worst place in the world. That’s the end of March, it’s sunny and warm for this time of the year, and we are pretty happy as we just have heard For Crying Out Loud, Kasabian’s sixth studio album (read our review there). It’s pretty disco and happy, it’s lively, and we just are so excited to talk about those pretty new songs with members of the band. Enter Tom Meighan, warm as usual. As tired he can be, he makes you feel comfortable immediately ; definitely one of the nicest person you can meet. Later enters Sergio Pizzorno, and, without any more comment, here are the best parts of the conversation:

We have just listened to the new album, For Crying Out Loud, and we found it very, very interesting. Lovely, lots of new sounds, new inspirations. How would you describe it?

Tom Meighan: It’s very uplifting. It’s positive, it’s happy. Basically it’s like a window of ours. Because we’ve never spoken about real issues and things in songs, you know. It’s personal. I mean it’s a very human record, very different from 48:13 or Velociraptor!

Like I say every time, it’s our best record (we giggle).

No, it is, that’s the best record we’ve ever done ! It is without a doubt our best record. Looking back on last year and all the stuff and shit that has happened, it reflects a period in our time, in my time anyway, whatever that is.

I said to Serge « fuck the electronics off , fuck all the bullshit, let’s make a rock n roll album». We have and I think that’s… our best thing. We have never written a guitar album like that and I think it’s about time we did one. So here we are.

We wanted to go over each song separately, so if you could give us a basic description of what each song is about ?

(Tom picks up our notes on the album, reads through).

Tom Meighan: That’s not the order of the record. That’s bizarre, that’s strange (actually, he is right, we did not get to hear the songs in the same order as on the album) Ok, we’ll start with the top of the record then.

« Ill Ray King »

It’s about us, being back. That’s Kasabian’s arrogance. It’s pure arrogance. Guitars… It’s macho. Watch your back, call your mates and all that. I fucking love it. We’re gonna learn it live for TV.

« You’re In Love with A Psycho »

It’s a love song, pop song. It’s just a bit of fun with words, you know.

Why this one for the first single ? Because that’s not the obvious one ?

Tom Meighan: I don’t know, I don’t know, we had so many, it felt we had 7 or 8 singles on there. We’ve never had that before.

But it was your choice ?

Tom Meighan: Yes, of course, it’s always our choice. « You’re In Love With A Psycho »… It’s just beautiful. And when we made the record, we were listening to a lot of Blondie, the Ramones and stuff, Bruce Springsteen, so that’s that kind of sound. The video is out tomorrow at 8 o’clock on Vevo.

« Good Fight »

That’s probably my favourite. It’s amazing. On this album, the vocals are really clear and honest and you hear me singing word for word. And it’s quite close to the bone of me. Lot of things happened last year and it ended up all positive. It’s a love song, again. And a very rock song.

« Comeback Kid »

Man, that’s the return of Billy The Kid from the Wild West. Someone’s come back to get a go at everyone. (He sings the melody). It is amazing. Again, it’s personal. When we play it live, it’s massive. It’s fucking massive live. It’s amazing. We got a headache, when we play it live, whether to start with that, or we’ll start with “You’re in Love with a Psycho”, or we’ll start with “Acid House”.

« Wasted »

Well, you know – « you don’t catch me in my shorts ». You figure that out. You can go figure that out, can’t you. I don’t need to tell you about that. Just make what you want. Like I said, this is personal. This is like a biography album, this is into our window.
It’s the most honest we’ve ever been as well. You can’t get more of this. This album will be fucking massive because they’re all massive songs. Huge. Different from 48:13.

« The Party Never Ends »

Again, you can take what you want from that. (Tom searches his pocket, get out an electric plug : « you want a plug  ? ») We’ve all been there. We’ve all been to parties, well I have anyway… We all have been in a situation where… The same shit, the same people, the same drugs, the same bullshit, the same conversation. And you still go back. Sometimes you gotta step away from it. Again, it’s more related to people… People relate to that… Parties in Beverly Hills, parties in your bedroom, in your hotel room… same shit, you know. Again, like I said, I don’t feel I’ve ever been this open on a record.

« Twentyfourseven »

…is massive, that’s rock n roll. Massive.

What does it remind you of ? Excuse me , is this pure Kasabian ?

Yes.

Ramones-y ? No, it’s heavier, I don’t know, it’s Kasabian, isn’t it ?

It is.

Thank you very much. That’s fucking great. That will be great live. That’s fantastic. (he sings the melody, pretends to play it on an invisible guitar)

When you hear it, you imagine it live and think it’s gonna be cool.

That’s great mate, thank you.

« Sixteen Blocks »

Again, it’s about personal things, about choosing your mates wisely. Some people, you know, the hangers-on, and you just got to be careful, you know. Choose your mates wisely . Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. And it has a hip hop feel to it, it stomps. It’s great. And again, it’s very close to how we feel. Very close to me, and Serge, you know.

« Put Your Life On It »

It is the last one on the album. Again, it’s a love song. If you really listen to it, you can hear I’m going to break down on it, you can hear it in my voice. I think we did only one take and we had to stop. Serge was like « you got to carry on », so I carried on. So it’s really big, but it’s good. We captured a moment. I did say it’s as good as “Let it Be”. But it is. That’s my opinion. And this guy can finish the rest of!

 

Enters Serge with catlike stealth to the chant of « Substitute ! » ; his voice is smooth and warm. He looks marginally less tired than Tom and obviously is in good spirit.

« We’ve just gone though the album, I’ve left you 3 or 4 to pick upon », Tom explains to Serge.

« Perfect. » comes the reply with a lively tone in the voice.

(Little break during which we try and explain to Serge the very French ritual of « la bise »).

So we were talking with Tom about the songs on the album and he was talking us through it… do you want to add your own words or answer other questions ?

Sergio Pizzorno: Whatever you want. Whatever you like.

Okay, I have a question. We are called Kasabian Paradise for more than ten years now, but we still don’t know where this « Paradise » comes from. It’s on every record, but we have never known where it was from.

Sergio Pizzorno: It’s a good question. I’m not really sure, we needed like, a catalogue number. We just chose that. It’s all made us laugh. It’s hard to come up with a name, you know. We kind of went with that. It’s always made us laugh, because its a ridiculous word.

How much do you write based on personal experience ? Tom has already answered partially, he said that this album is about you, about Kasabian. Some songwriters have the ability to write about stuff that is completely outside of their life, so how does it work for you ?

Sergio Pizzorno: You know, to be inspired, to really want to make an album, there has to be a reason.
Obviously, where we are, we can make an album because we need to tour. You need to sort of service the machine. It’s like, you take a deep breath and go « There’s a an album to do ». So, I thought about last time, and thought what would be interesting would be to not have a year, to do it. I thought «  I’ll try to do it in six weeks and I won’t use any of the equipment in the studio, I’ll just use a guitar and a piano, and I’ll write based on traditional great songs structure. I’ll use that, and I’ll try and write really simple songs about simple things ». The complete opposite of what I usually do. And that inspired me. That made me want to get up in the morning and go in the studio and make an album, because I’d never really done it before. So that’s kind of why I made this really feel good, positive album, because I was really excited about this idea.

And I always figured it’s really hard to write uplifting music because you always fall back on … it’s really easy – not easy but easier, to write somber, melancholic music. It just feels naturally… It’s easier to understand for people, because if you give them some joy, it’s not quite right, it’s always « what’s going on » ?

So there was this intense period of work and that was it. I was not going to move away from that, and stick to our plan. Because the album was finished, I went away on holiday. I came back and messed with it, as I always do. Then I had two more songs that were “Ill Ray” and “Acid House” and then I felt like that was a real, complete album.

So to answer your question, on this album I was way more honest, and used language that I use all the time. There’s a lot more humour. In previous albums, I’d tried to address the world and its problems. In this album I’ve not, I’ve just talked about very simple things.

Completely different topic, today is a big day for your country, because today Theresa May triggered the article 50 for Brexit. Because we’re all in it, whether we like it or not, we just wanted to know, how does it feel for you, this moment, this period. Because right now you are in Europe but in a few years, your country won’t be part of the European Union any more. What do you feel about this ?

Sergio Pizzorno: It’s weird ; Obviously the decision has been made and it split the country in two. Litterally, 51 percent. For me, it is a state of mind, I’ll always feel European and they can’t really take that away from me, it’s a feeling. It’s just really sad that we’ve gone back. It feels like we’ve come back! We have made so many strides forward and we’ve taken so many steps backward. I think it’s a wake up call. Maybe this is the best thing that could have happened because it shines a light on it all. It’s really happening, we can not pretend that it’s not. It’s there and it’s fractured. Britain is fractured. And the lot of Europe is as well. So, all we can do really is… I don’t know.

(After a bit, we’re going back to the album.)

Sergio Pizzorno: I think like, and I didn’t mean to, and in no way was it about that, because it just wasn’t, but there’s something about this album being joyful and positive…

But the mood in the lyrics seems to be very different from that joyful and… I don’t know because we just heard the album once you know, but it seems different… it feels like there’s a different mood in the lyrics and in the music.

Sergio Pizzorno: In which song, or in general ?

Well, even not referring to the lyrics but based on music only, I thought that « The Party Never Ends » is quite an ironic title, because when you listen to the music, it feels so very sad.

That one song… You got me ( he laughs). That one song is… the end of the party. But, I mean, it needs to be there. For redemption, because in the end you get redemption, there has to be a moment in the middle where you have to reach the bottom to be saved at the end. So it has that little moment. You need a little bit of this because then it would not be true.

But “You Are In Love With A Psycho”, “Acid House”, “Ill Ray”, “You’re Looking for Action”, “Good Fight”, “Put Your Life On It”, “Sixteen Blocks”, they’re all joyful songs. They’re all celebrations.

What are you listening to at the moment ?

Sergio Pizzorno: Young Fathers, I really like. Their second album especially is ridiculous: it’s so good! They’re really exciting.

And what about movies and books ?

Sergio Pizzorno: My favourite book is about Basquiat, I think it’s called… My brain’s got to mush… but it is about Basquiat’s muse ; it’s incredible, the best book I’ve ever read [ndlr: Widow Basquiat: A Love Story, by Jennifer Clement]. And Just Friends, the Patti Smith book, incredible. And I watched the other day, it was great… American Honey, have you seen this film ? It’s incredible. It came out last year, it’s brilliant.

I’ve read and heard plenty of songwriters say the same about the process of writing music. Basically, it is that you don’t write music but that music « writes itself ». John Lennon said that for some songs he was not even sure he could say « I wrote this song », because he felt he was like a medium, that he was channeling a music that was already existing, that he was in tune with « something ». And he just worked as a conduit? He said the best part is when it comes to you at a moment when you’re not trying. And he said that some songs got him out of bed at night because it kept nagging him, so he had to get up and do something about it so it would leave him alone. And I’ve read some interviews where you said the same.

Sergio Pizzorno: Exactly. You couldn’t put it any better. That happened a lot on this album. “Bless This Acid House”, “You’re In Love With A Psycho”, “Put Your Life On It”, they were like 15 minutes. I woke up and just picked the guitar up and had no idea where that was, where it came from and why I even said those words. It just happened and then I’d record everything and then I listened back and pretty much wrote it as it was sang, like it was weird. There is always a second version but pretty much I had no idea where it came from. And then you think « why can’t I do that all the time? Why isn’t that always there?» But it is not. It’s weird. It’s like something finds you that morning or that day. And this is yours. And you go « wow, that’s weird ».

Like Paul McCartney waking up to « Yesterday ».

Yes, he thought it was someone else’s.

He played it to various people, he kept asking them “Do you know this song?, is it an actual song ?” He thought it was not possible, it could not be that easy…

It’s amazing. That’s what is so weird about it. You can’t define it because if you could, you could sell it. You can read a million books on how to write a song, but (he smiles) it’s not that easy… It’s weird.

When I have a melody in my head, it’s either something that already exists, or it’s really poor (giggles).

Maybe I’m going too deep but, maybe there’s those ancient melodies floating about and they just found their way in, I don’t know… There can’t be that many left, after so many years of making music…

Did you use some elements that you had been working on for a while or is it all very new ? For this album ?

Sergio Pizzorno: It’s all new, everything is new. I did not have anything left after last record. I was scared, I thought « what am I gonna do? ».

Blank page…

The most frightening page of all.

But you filled it quite quick.

Yes! Definitely. And we’re really excited about this. Already there’s been an amazing , such a positive response. People are really excited so that’s good. It’s great because usually everyone is really confused (he laughs).

Well, it was a bit confusing at first because we were not expecting this.

That’s perfect. That’s Kasabian, right ? (he laughs). « What’s going on? »

That’s why we love you, because you always manage to surprise us. And, that’s why we’re still here.

Exactly. Thank you. Thank you so much. (In French) Merci.

Why, thank you and thank you for your time !

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