» Ryan O'Keefee - Airbourne
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Interview conducted September 12 2019
Interview published October 26 2019

"If you have a plan B in life, when your plan A gets tough it makes it easier for you to jump off the ship."

The Australian rockers Airbourne put out their new album Boneshaker on October 25th and Metal Covenant got some time to talk with drummer
Ryan O'Keefee.

Tobbe: Not saying I don't like the new record, but Airbourne truly has its style and no reason to make too much of an unnecessary progress, right?

Ryan: Well, no. I mean, I think we just do what comes naturally. You know, we just play all from the heart; we play what we feel. I think that's the trick in anything you do in life. We're never trying to do something to appease anything.

Tobbe: Every band develops in some way or another between two records and which differences are easiest to spot between Breakin' Outta Hell [2016] and the new record Boneshaker?

Ryan: The difference is, I guess, the songs were tracked quite quickly in regards to we didn't even know we were tracking at the time because the producer [Dave Cobb] would just press record once we were still learning the song and then just come out and say "You pretty much got the take.". Differences: I mean, there's a lot of good times and fun on this record. Maybe a little bit more than Breakin' Outta Hell; I'm not sure. But yeah, I mean, you're just gonna get an old-fashioned Airbourne record, you know.

Tobbe: So fifth in a row with the same material? Like 50 lyrics to 1 song. [Not to be taken seriously.]

Ryan: Exactly. [Laughs] I love it. I mean, when I was growing up I remember a lot of bands changing and I don't think once I ever thought "Oh, they've changed to the better.", you know. I think once a band has their staple… Especially for us as kids. We pretty much by our late teens knew what kind of rock 'n' roll we wanna play and we just haven't stopped since.

Tobbe: I presume that you and your brother [Joel, vocals/guitar.] wrote most of the material for this record as well and tell me in what way you built this one from a first idea or a first tone to a complete record.

Ryan: Well, we had a lot of riffs and a lot of song titles, but most of the songs were done right there on the spot. That was the way Dave Cobb worked. He really didn't believe in demos, which is great. So this was the first time these songs were ever recorded. We hadn't made a demo of any of them before we got to Nashville.

Tobbe: This was a new way of working to you and in the beginning was it a little bit daunting?

Ryan: No, it was really relaxed. It was actually one of the most fun records we've ever made. It was amazing how relaxed it was. You know, Dave Cobb is very good at what he does. It's why he is probably the best producer in the world right now. He literally just worked on A Star Is Born before he worked on this. So he is working on big projects. To be, you know, in very good hands and just having fun with a little bit of rock 'n' roll is really good.

Tobbe: Speaking of relaxed. Is it kind of easy for you guys to write and record a song nowadays?

Ryan: I guess so. The band plays really well together. There was no real difference between what it would have sounded like if we were at rehearsal working on new riffs. The only difference was we were in Nashville at RCA Studios and somebody was pressing record.

Tobbe: What is your greatest inspiration to make music today and to keep putting out music?

Ryan: Playing live. The fans, or the friends that we like to call them. You know, playing live and playing shows is what we love doing and what we strive to continue doing for the rest of our lives.

Tobbe: Lyrically, is Airbourne still singing about, like, real-life experiences including party and rock 'n' roll?

Ryan: Yeah. I mean, we do draw a lot of influences and experiences for lyrics all the time. We generally have a lot of good times with the road crew after shows, heading out on the town or whatever like that, so. So yeah, absolutely.

Tobbe: About live performances. You've got a lot of years to go as a band still, but with such explosive stage performances, and be honest now, can you truly and honestly see yourselves doing the same kind of shows in, let's say, 20-30 years from now?

Ryan: Absolutely. We'll find a way. If there's a will there's a way. I mean, there's things you can do. For instance, I broke my finger on the last tour. [Shows me his right little finger.] I played the show the next day. All we did was we just got a lot of crash cymbals and a lot of hi-hats. We found a way. I have played drums with a broken hand and if I can do that I'm sure I'll find a way. And I'm sure Joel will still continue doing what he's doing. If Angus [Young, AC/DC guitarist.] can keep doing what he is doing, Joel will be fine.

Tobbe: Will there come a live DVD or something someday?

Ryan: Hopefully. Yeah, I mean, we just got to get a film team together to do that. But yeah, that's definitely on the cards. Definitely talked about. Five albums deep now, so it'd be about the right time to do something like that, yeah.

Tobbe: Where do you see yourselves in 5-10 years? It's hard to predict, I guess, but.

Ryan: Well, the band has been on a slow, steady organic growth since day one. I'd just like to see that continue to grow; organically, you know. We're not an overnight success band; it's something that's growing really naturally and that's all you can really wish for in the next 5 or 10 years. Just a good natural growth. And the venues getting slightly bigger every time, and more shows, and more albums.

Tobbe: A lot of bands are in an economic downward spiral right now and is there a way back for rock bands and metal bands to the good old days in some way?

Ryan: Yeah. Go on the road! Go on the road and tour as hard as you possibly can. You know, it surprises me how many artists I meet that don't like touring; "Well, then don't be in a band.". 'Cause it's the only way you're gonna make money.

Tobbe: You tour a lot and does that ever take a toll on you?

Ryan: No. Love it. You know, football players and all that, they do that, and that takes a toll on them, but they don't quit. They love it, so I think the same mentality should be for a band. You should love being out on the road and playing shows.

Tobbe: If you look at the whole music industry today, what kind of things that used to seem odd to you aren't odd anymore and just natural?

Ryan: The internet and how… You know, basically, as far as I'm concerned, when the album comes out it's gonna be already in everybody's pocket. So that's cool. That's cool to have that now. Spotify and all that. It's good to have that accessibility to music so easy.

Tobbe: A lot of artists actually complain about the music industry, but if it would be all bad no one would even be considering doing what you do, and tell me what works perfectly in the music industry?

Ryan: Like I said. You know, on October 25th our record is gonna be in your pocket. Whether you like it or not. And it's gonna be in their pocket, it's gonna be in her pocket, it's gonna be in the receptionist's pocket. We just got to say "Pull your phone out and have a listen to this.". And that is amazing. You don't have to actually physically walk down to a CD shop or something and buy it. You know, it takes a lot of effort to do that. That's an amazing thing. So if you release a record, I guess with a record label and professionally, everyone has got it already. So it's amazing.

Tobbe: How would a hypothetical new band be like if you started up a band without your brother?

Ryan: I wouldn't do it. I've never played drums by myself. I think I did it once when I broke my collarbone to try and see if I could play. But I've never played by myself. It's sort of just the way it is. I wouldn't do it really, yeah.

Tobbe: Of course you're happy with the music you are doing now, but could you someday, like, explore other territories, like, doing different stuff on the side?

Ryan: Well, I mean, we spoke to Cobb, our producer. You know, you could do soundtrack stuff for a movie. We'd still get the band to do that. But that wouldn't just be chorus/verse, chorus/verse. You know, you'd probably do a few different things, but it'd still sound like the way we do probably.

Tobbe: You seem very happy with what you're doing. Are there no negative sides?

Ryan: If there was I wouldn't be happy. You know, it's like in school; I didn't have a plan B. If you have a plan B in life, when your plan A gets tough it makes it easier for you to jump off the ship. If you don't have a plan B you figure out a way to plug the holes and keep sailing. I generally do love what I do. I wouldn't do it otherwise. 'Cause, believe me, it is not easy.

Tobbe: You know, like, regular people go to their job every day and a lot of them don't like their profession and what makes a musician different?

Ryan: They didn't listen to their teachers, you know. I'm not having a go at the school system, but the problem is that kids are taught and drilled to follow those lives, and then they track them in the world, and everyone's depressed. You know, I mean, look at depressions. It's going up every year. Because the system is broken, you know. Maybe 9 to 5 is not… Maybe think outside the box, 'cause if you look at California, with Silicon Valley and stuff, they're not going to work 9 to 5 anymore.

I'm pretty sure now they're talking about 4-day weeks in Australia and a lot of new companies have got people working from home. I think they found that the people were actually working harder on the 4 days and getting more done. I think Wednesday was off, so it's like a 2 on, 1 off, 2 on, and then your weekend. So maybe the schools should start thinking about that the old way of doing things kills people early, you know. Try and enjoy life. That's what's most important.

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