Interview conducted August 10 2016
Interview published October 05 2016
"When I Drink I Go Crazy
and Thin The Blood are two good titles."
The Australian brothers Joel
and Ryan O'Keefee visited Stockholm, Sweden,
in order to talk about the new Airbourne record Breakin' Outta Hell [Street
date: September 23rd]. These guys don't always answer the questions specifically
and often do they kind of end on a different track. Occasionally I wonder
if they even know what they're saying and especially when they both talk
at the same time. It turned out to be a nice little talk though and say
what you will, but a few drops of alcohol and Joel O'Keefee blend quite
well in the end.
"We're trying to chop out
our way, with a fucking rusty machete."
Tobbe: You've got a record coming out in
September, so in your own opinion, is it kind of just a natural follow-up
to Black Dog Barking?
Joel: Well, we wanted to make a record that was
Friday and Saturday night from start to finish. It's a good time. It
has a party vibe. We got the producer who did our first album [Bob Marlette]
and then we toured Runnin' Wild, which is our first album. We didn't
have any other songs to play live, other than what was on the album.
So we said on this album: "What if we had the same mentality? Forget
the last 3 albums. We don't have any other albums. We're gonna go out
and tour. Let's make an album like that!".
to work with Bob again was great, you know, and he taught us more on
this album, 'cause when we made Runnin' Wild we were just starting out.
So I think, on this album, it's not just another follow-up, we have
more personality of the band. We've opened up a bit more. It's more
edginess to the guitars or a bit heavier. But it's still Airbourne.
Tobbe: So what can Breakin' Outta Hell in
the long run do for Airbourne?
Ryan: It sounds like the last 10 years to be
honest. It comes back around to me and creates a whole circle around
to Runnin' Wild again. It's a good sum-up of the last 10 years in one
record. It keeps, you know, the trudging climb of Airbourne stronger.
We're not one of those bands that wants to be flash in the pan famous.
We don't care about that. We care about just providing for the fans
and to rock and roll.
Tobbe: But you won't say no to getting famous
Ryan: Well, no, I wouldn't, but we just love
this. (Joel:) Just like Red Bull, Airbourne
gives you wings.
Tobbe: So what can you say to convince me
of this record's greatness?
Joel: We live and breathe the lyrics. The stories
we're telling you, everything about the album, they're real deal stories.
There's not one fabricated thing on there; it's real. (Ryan:)
And when we worked with Bob Marlette with Runnin' Wild, we came into
the record with the mentality that we could play the whole thing live
from start to finish. So this record has been constructed in exactly
the same way, where we pretended the last 3 albums didn't exist and
we had to go out on the road with just this record and it would make
a perfect live set.
Tobbe: There's always like 3 years between
Joel: I don't know what's with the fucking 3
thing, but here's the deal: So every album has been on a different record
label. So the first record [Runnin' Wild] was Capitol and then it was
Virgin and then it became Roadrunner, because shit hit the fan, you
know. And then the next record [No Guts. No Glory.] was Roadrunner again,
but it became more sort of like
Warner vibe. And then the next
record [Black Dog Barking] was, like, Atlantic.
The thing is, it was a different record label
all the way around. Still Roadrunner at the end, but Roadrunner just
disappeared. So Warner bought everything and changed it. So this record
is Spinefarm / Universal. We've been on almost every record label other
than Sony now. I think Motörhead did a similar thing. You know,
that takes time, to negotiate all that stuff.
it's not like the 80's, where they used to tour for 9 months and then
do an album every year. We do a year and a half to 2 years touring.
We do 2 years touring on an album, so then we take a year to negotiate
a new contract and write the album, when we get our shit together. Ryan
and I, we wrote, you know, pretty much everything that's on the album
and we like to have a good time, so when we come home to Australia we're
drinking beer. The thing is, we are who we are.
(Ryan:) Look, we couldn't write about these kind
of songs if we didn't live it. Otherwise we'd be a fake. (Joel:)
You can't just pretend. You can't pretend this shit. Look, it's like
Evel Knievel. We're getting on the motorcycle, we're driving up over
the ramp, we're jumping the cars and when we hit the ground we either
crash or burn. We are who we are. For this record, you know, there's
11 songs, but there was well and truly over 30 songs written for it.
So we write a lot because we want to give you
the best and we wanna give you the best dynamic for the record. We never
see it as just a collection of songs. We see it as an experience. There's
a song in here, Thin The Blood, a very fast song, and we had 3 or 4
songs that were similar to that and you'd be bored. But the thrashheads
would love it and that's OK, 'cause we got a lot more records to make.
But we wanna give you an experience. This will be the 4th record we'll
have out there. Anyone can make their own Airbourne playlist now, of
the songs they want.
But a record is an experience. You're supposed
to put it on, like vinyl, side A and side B. We think old school like
that, because it's an experience. We just put that much time and effort
into it. It's not just about going "Oh, here's a new record. Let's
do a tour.". We really fucking put everything into these records.
Tobbe: So with 30 songs written and as you
mentioned with Thin The Blood, is it hard to come up with completely new
stuff, when you write so many songs, and not repeat yourselves?
Joel: It's not hard with the lyrics, because
you always see new things every day, new experiences, but there's only
so many ways you can get pissed. With, like, When I Drink I Go Crazy,
the line, you know "Directing traffic like a ninja." and stuff
like that, the unique experiences from one night on the town, it's just
about, on the next day, how much can you remember of the night before.
(Ryan:) And like going into the record, I mean,
we wanted to write a drinking song, but "All the drinking titles
you put your mind to it, and you get to work. When I Drink I Go Crazy
and Thin The Blood are two good titles. We didn't have them, but then
we got to "work" [Drinking]. Like anything in life, if you
put your mind to it, you will find a way. (Joel:)
You know, bricklayers, they put a brick down, they put another brick
down, they put another brick down, build another wall, build another
wall, build another wall. That's what we do. It's just another brick,
another brick, another brick and "That's a fucking great brick!
I'm stealing that one! That one is going on the fucking album!".
And then just keep making more bricks.
Tobbe: So, is it still as exciting, really,
to put out a new record?
Joel: It's fucking great. It's great to put out
a new record. Because putting out a new record is kind of, I don't know,
it's kind of like you feel closer to the world. You put another version
of yourself out. (Ryan:) Oh, is it another
world? Where are you when you're not here? (Joel:)
Fucking sitting on the moon, just getting pissed, watching AC/DC, fucking
videos, and then I fly back. It's pretty cool. (Ryan:)
But we love it. We love it. (Joel:) Yeah,
Tobbe: Have you ever thought about making
your records a little bit more diverse? Like spread your wings a little
bit from the original sound?
Ryan: For us, Rivalry itself is a song
(Joel:) We do do it, but we've just been
gradually doing it. (Ryan:) The thing is,
that's about as far as we take things. I think bands can make a big
mistake by doing it too much. But we haven't necessarily tried to go
"Oh, hey! What we're doing is not working" or, now hang on,
actually what a lot of bands do "What we're doing is really working.
Let's go and change it!".
(Joel:) Do you drink? What's your favorite beer?
[I name a standard Swedish lager called Pripps Blue, just to get him
going.] Imagine you went to a bar and you have a big drinking session.
Imagine this. You love this Pripps, all right? Now you go to the pub
every Saturday night and you're drinking Pripps and this goes on for
years and years and years. I'm talking 10 years now. Pripps is your
beer, like "Fucking give us a Pripps! Get me one of those!".
And then, all of a sudden Pripps change the recipe and you get one and
you go "Oh, what the fuck! What have you done to me? I was loyal.
You changed too much. You got blond hair and sound like Blink 182. What
(Ryan:) That's what happens when the band changes.
[Laughs] (Joel:) "What the fuck! I
hate your band now! I'm gonna burn the record! I'm gonna come and bash
ya!, you know. You don't do that to me!". Do you see what I meant
Actually I got the point like 2 minutes ago.
Ryan: He just wanted to tell the story. [Laughs]
(Joel:) I just wanted to tell the story
and make a fool out of myself.
Tobbe: But when you write a song today,
like, what goes through your mind? Are you trying to adapt the end result
to something that you know that the fans will embrace?
Ryan: So, basically we are our own fans, because
we are exactly the same as the people that come to our shows. (Joel:)
We come to shows and drinking. It's the same thing. (Ryan:)
It's not just "Does this song make us feel good?". Not only
that, but "Can we relate to this song?". It's all for rock'n'roll.
I guess it would make you feel good now with a little bit away, but
we can relate to that song, and so can all our fans. And like Never
Too Loud For Me, I guess it'll make you feel good and stuff, but they
can relate to it. When I Drink I Go Crazy, well, that makes 'em feel
good. Same with us. That makes us feel good.
(Joel:) Down On You. Clearly the boys are gonna
love singing that one. We can all relate to it. Who doesn't love, getting
(Ryan:) Wow, Joel. Come
on. (Joel:) Getting their, you know, mouth
to waist? [Laughs] Who doesn't love that, right? A mouthful of that,
you know. As if the women don't love it too. But they will probably
go home when I'm singing that song, but the boys are gonna be like "I'm
going down, down, down, down, down on you!".
Tobbe: That was actually the first lyrics,
of course, that I picked up, really, when I listened to the record the
first time. I put the record on and was strolling around my house and
just listening a little bit to it and I got to, like, song 7 or 8 and
like "OK. There we go.".
Joel: So, you know what I mean, like it's a
good time. Oh, that's the other thing about this record. We really wanted
to, on this record, give you a really positive injection of good times.
No dark bullshit. No fucking stuff like that. Just good times. (Ryan:)
Yeah, actually that was a really big approach we went into. (Joel:)
We wrote it in the summer. Australian summer. (Ryan:)
Black Dog Barking is a good album. Really proud of it. (Joel:)
But it was hard. (Ryan:) But like Cradle
To The Grave is a little bit dark and so is Black Dog Barking itself.
It's got a dark connotation vibe to it. It's a good song. (Joel:)
We were in a darker place. (Ryan:) This
one, all good times, yeah.
Tobbe: Are you trying to revisit the original
idea that you had like 12 years ago or would that prove that you have
ran out of inspiration?
Joel: You see, Runnin' Wild was a party record
and that was what we wanted to make back then and then the next 2 records
we'd lost a little bit of that. We make different directions. Not to
discredit them at all, but different directions. (Ryan:)
No, I'm very proud of them. (Joel:) I'm
still very proud of those records, but it's just there is a connection
between Runnin' Wild and Breakin' Outta Hell. Not only did Bob Marlette
make Runnin' Wild, but he made this one. (Ryan:)
And there's definitely a connection.
And then working with Mike Fraser as an engineer is something we always
wanted to do. And we always wanted to make an album in Australia. It's
our first album we've ever recorded in Australia, and also mixed there.
So there's a lot of things about this record that make it what it is.
It's the great escape. You can have a hard week at work, or break up
in a relationship, or whatever hell you're going through, rock'n'roll
has always gotten us out. World - off, rock'n'roll - on.
Tobbe: So you still play a lot of songs
from Runnin' Wild live, but wouldn't it be more fun to play more newer
songs in the future?
Joel: Yeah, absolutely. There's a lot of songs
that we've started jamming already in sound checks and we're like "Fuck.
This is fucking awesome!". Hearing it through a P.A., like "This
is gonna rock!". (Ryan:) Yeah, it's
gonna be hard to pick songs, you know. (Joel:)
I think it's just gonna be a Runnin' Wild / fucking Breakin' Outta Hell
tour, with a couple of songs off Ready To Rock. The next tour, when
the album comes out, would be Ready To Rock and Live It Up and then
all songs from Runnin' Wild and all songs from Breakin' Outta Hell.
No Guts [No Glory] might get a bit of a fucking sideline for a bit.
(Ryan:) Chewin' The Fat is pretty good.
(Joel:) Bottom Of The Well is pretty cool.
Tobbe: You're touring from late May to mid
December or something this year and what does it take for someone to be
more or less constantly on the road for 6 months?
Joel: Sense of humor. You gotta have a really
good sense of humor. (Ryan:) And gypsy
blood. (Joel:) Gypsy blood and sense of
humor. You have to be able to take a shit in the woods or albeit a carpark
in the full moon, in the light, and sit there, going "This is what
I do.". Because this is what happens when you're in a band. You
can't shit on the bus, but you're stuck. That's a very graphic, ugly
look at it, but you gotta laugh at that. You gotta go "Haha. We
just all took a shit in a carpark. Can you believe that?". [Laughs]
Tobbe: Side by side. Four guys, and the
Joel: Yeah, just going "Hey! Pass the toilet
roll. Pass the roll down.". The guy in the end is only getting
a little bit of cardboard and starts going "Fuck!". [Laughs]
(Ryan:) Jesus, Joel. (Joel:) "Can
someone pass me a shirt?". No, but sense of humor and gypsy blood.
Tobbe: You've had the same lineup since
2004 and what makes you, seemingly, get along well?
Joel: We lived in a house for 3-4 years and
that ironed out the crisis. From then on we became a band of brothers.
It's like trench warfare. Bullets are coming over our heads. Everybody
has got each other's back. We know how to stay out of each other's way
and know when to help a guy out.
So, what, in the end, differs Airbourne from a lot of other bands, who
didn't make it to this level?
Joel: Oh, I don't know about other bands. I
only really know about my own band. And I've got my brother, and that's
one thing that's kept this solid. And then having Roadsy [David Roads,
guitar] and Streety [Justin Street, bass], who are like brothers from
another mother kind of thing, you know. We've been very solid, we've
been very focused and we've stuck to our guns the whole way. I mean,
to be honest, maybe we've been lucky, maybe we've just been who we are.
I don't know what's kept us where we are at.
We're going through a jungle that many bands have already made pass
through. We're trying to chop out our way, with a fucking rusty machete.
But we're there cutting it, and we're cutting our own way. AC/DC did
say it best, and we always get compared to AC/DC, but the thing is,
it's a long way to the top, if you wanna rock'n'roll. And in these days,
ever since Napster and all that sort of stuff, and the record industry
is going the way it's going
I mean, if this was the 80's, Ryan and I would
be living in fucking mansions and we'd play fucking stadiums, but we
love rock'n'roll and we love playing rock'n'roll and that's why we're
here. It's not about anything else. It's about going out and giving
people a good time, 'cause when we see people having a good time, from
what we do, we have a good time. We always come second to the fans,
Tobbe: So how much have you sacrificed to
Joel: Well, this is our life. This is our life.
I mean, I don't think we made really any sacrifice. It's a blessing
to be able to do this. To get up and playing guitar and seeing people
love it and they sing the words back to you. That feeling outweighs
any sacrifice. It makes everything secondary, seeing the smiles and
the cheers. If we've made sacrifices, I've forgotten them because of
how great our crowds are.