Last band standing: Kasabian interview

As Kasabian lament the end of rock’n’roll, AIDAN SMITH discovers that for all their bravado, the swaggering rock ‘cats’ are quite happy taking in the view from the shoulder of Oasis
ROCK’N’ROLL is dead. Let the records show that it was pronounced parrot-like on a sultry Thursday afternoon in a private members’ club in London just before cocktail hour, by Kasabian.

Glugging vodka and tonic, the band’s singer, Tom Meighan, is specifically talking about “the whole rock star thing” when he says: “It’s gone, over, well buried. No one can be arsed any more. There are no more of them cool cats.”

But hang on, the wipe-out isn’t total, all hope may not be gone, for four figures bearing well-practised sullenness can be glimpsed through the post-apocalyptic dry ice. They’re grown men unafraid of referring to each other as cats, they can be arsed, and – would you believe it? – they’re called Kasabian.

In the aftermath of this rock version of the Great Plague it’s my good fortune to be in the company of Meighan; and Sergio Pizzorno, guitarist, fellow survivor and another who swears by the rocker’s inalienable right to flaunt outrageous trousers and equally outrageous boasts. Pizzorno can see into the future and says: “In 20, 30 years’ time, no one’s going to give a f*** about mediocre bullshit radio bands – they’re going to look to us in the same way we look to the boys, back in the day.”

By “the boys” he means all the greats. Kasabian are one of our most non-retiring bands. Emerging from Leicester in 2004, their statement of intent announced them as “the guardians of rock’n’roll… the Stones, Zeppelin, the Pistols, Oasis – we’re next in line”. In 2006, they declared second album Empire to be a classic sophomore to plonk next to the Brian Jones-era Stones’ Let It Bleed and the Gallagher brothers’ Definitely Maybe. Their third is called West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum and they’re chuffed that their decision to draft in a hip-hop producer, Dan the Automator, has paid off. “We’ve never been afraid to get our kahoonas out,” confirms Pizzorno with a rare smirk.

Pizzorno is tall, skinny, bearded and slightly more considered in his responses than Meighan, who has grown his hair since the band’s last outing, is as over-proud of his Irish roots as he is his blue suede shoes, and has used the f-word in just about every utterance.

This is Meighan’s critical appraisal of Kasabian thus far: “Our first album, it’s f****n’ massive, mate. A couple of months ago I had some people over and I put in on full blast. Then I put the second one on. That’s a f****n’ unbelievable record, too.” As you can tell, he’s not a fan of flippin’ revisionism.

Of course, it’s all very well bragging (and calling My Chemical Romance “clowns, ventriloquist’s music” and the Strokes “posh f****n’ skiers” and speculating that another of rock’s posh boys, Keane’s Tom Chaplin, had entered rehab to beat an addiction to port). But eventually you have to deliver and until now Kasabian have been a Championship band rather than a Premiership one.

Pizzorno will understand the football analogy even if he won’t accept it, having once been a Notts Forest trialist. His group were expected to assume the mantle of the people’s band from the Stone Roses and Oasis but, although they’re popular with the lumpen lad constituency, shifting a million-plus copies of both of the first two albums, that hasn’t happened yet. Oasis, indeed, are still around and this summer they play Hampden Park – with Kasabian supporting.

This is a state of affairs with which our boys are entirely happy; indeed they get irked when I question whether they should still be hanging on to Oasis’s coat-tails or standing on their shoulder, the use of the singular being a famous Noel and Liam mis-spell. Says Pizzorno: “We’re doing loads of stadium shows with Oasis – 900,000 people, you can’t argue with that.” Will they be competitive and try to blow the bill-toppers off stage? “Well, they’re Oasis’s gigs but Noel will expect us to try; that would have been why he called us up.” Meighan, ever mindful of Kasabian’s place in his easy-assemble rock history, likens the invitation to “Mick Jagger recruiting The Who or the Small Faces”.

I ask them about Leicester, previously acclaimed as the home of Engelbert Humperdinck and Showaddywaddy. Pizzorno gets nostalgic for the Silver Arcade before “f****n’ capitalism moved in and made all town centres the same”. Meighan confirms that Bradgate Park is “proper f****n’ beautiful countryside, man”.

The pair were schoolmates but Pizzorno didn’t know Meighan could sing until he heard him belt it out in the street, “hammered on alcopops and marijuana”. Initially they meant to call themselves Syracuse but, in an Oasis-type way, the “y” came out an “a”. Showaddywaddy once slagged off Saracuse in the local rag, which was rich coming from a bunch of teddy boys who missed their era by a full 20 years, and for a long time Meighan kept the cutting pinned to a wall as a spur. But Pizzorno admits they were an unprepossessing lot back then. “We looked like car thieves,” he says.

Last band standing: Kasabian interview

Kasabian

“‘Music was people’s lives; it’s not any more. Where’s David Bowie these days? And Marc Bolan?'”
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Published Date: 31 May 2009
As Kasabian lament the end of rock’n’roll, AIDAN SMITH discovers that for all their bravado, the swaggering rock ‘cats’ are quite happy taking in the view from the shoulder of Oasis
ROCK’N’ROLL is dead. Let the records show that it was pronounced parrot-like on a sultry Thursday afternoon in a private members’ club in London just before cocktail hour, by Kasabian.

Glugging vodka and tonic, the band’s singer, Tom Meighan, is specifically talking about “the whole rock star thing” when he says: “It’s gone, over, well buried. No one can be arsed any more. There are no more of them cool cats.”

But hang on, the wipe-out isn’t total, all hope may not be gone, for four figures bearing well-practised sullenness can be glimpsed through the post-apocalyptic dry ice. They’re grown men unafraid of referring to each other as cats, they can be arsed, and – would you believe it? – they’re called Kasabian.

In the aftermath of this rock version of the Great Plague it’s my good fortune to be in the company of Meighan; and Sergio Pizzorno, guitarist, fellow survivor and another who swears by the rocker’s inalienable right to flaunt outrageous trousers and equally outrageous boasts. Pizzorno can see into the future and says: “In 20, 30 years’ time, no one’s going to give a f*** about mediocre bullshit radio bands – they’re going to look to us in the same way we look to the boys, back in the day.”

By “the boys” he means all the greats. Kasabian are one of our most non-retiring bands. Emerging from Leicester in 2004, their statement of intent announced them as “the guardians of rock’n’roll… the Stones, Zeppelin, the Pistols, Oasis – we’re next in line”. In 2006, they declared second album Empire to be a classic sophomore to plonk next to the Brian Jones-era Stones’ Let It Bleed and the Gallagher brothers’ Definitely Maybe. Their third is called West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum and they’re chuffed that their decision to draft in a hip-hop producer, Dan the Automator, has paid off. “We’ve never been afraid to get our kahoonas out,” confirms Pizzorno with a rare smirk.

Pizzorno is tall, skinny, bearded and slightly more considered in his responses than Meighan, who has grown his hair since the band’s last outing, is as over-proud of his Irish roots as he is his blue suede shoes, and has used the f-word in just about every utterance.

This is Meighan’s critical appraisal of Kasabian thus far: “Our first album, it’s f****n’ massive, mate. A couple of months ago I had some people over and I put in on full blast. Then I put the second one on. That’s a f****n’ unbelievable record, too.” As you can tell, he’s not a fan of flippin’ revisionism.

Of course, it’s all very well bragging (and calling My Chemical Romance “clowns, ventriloquist’s music” and the Strokes “posh f****n’ skiers” and speculating that another of rock’s posh boys, Keane’s Tom Chaplin, had entered rehab to beat an addiction to port). But eventually you have to deliver and until now Kasabian have been a Championship band rather than a Premiership one.

Pizzorno will understand the football analogy even if he won’t accept it, having once been a Notts Forest trialist. His group were expected to assume the mantle of the people’s band from the Stone Roses and Oasis but, although they’re popular with the lumpen lad constituency, shifting a million-plus copies of both of the first two albums, that hasn’t happened yet. Oasis, indeed, are still around and this summer they play Hampden Park – with Kasabian supporting.

This is a state of affairs with which our boys are entirely happy; indeed they get irked when I question whether they should still be hanging on to Oasis’s coat-tails or standing on their shoulder, the use of the singular being a famous Noel and Liam mis-spell. Says Pizzorno: “We’re doing loads of stadium shows with Oasis – 900,000 people, you can’t argue with that.” Will they be competitive and try to blow the bill-toppers off stage? “Well, they’re Oasis’s gigs but Noel will expect us to try; that would have been why he called us up.” Meighan, ever mindful of Kasabian’s place in his easy-assemble rock history, likens the invitation to “Mick Jagger recruiting The Who or the Small Faces”.

I ask them about Leicester, previously acclaimed as the home of Engelbert Humperdinck and Showaddywaddy. Pizzorno gets nostalgic for the Silver Arcade before “f****n’ capitalism moved in and made all town centres the same”. Meighan confirms that Bradgate Park is “proper f****n’ beautiful countryside, man”.

The pair were schoolmates but Pizzorno didn’t know Meighan could sing until he heard him belt it out in the street, “hammered on alcopops and marijuana”. Initially they meant to call themselves Syracuse but, in an Oasis-type way, the “y” came out an “a”. Showaddywaddy once slagged off Saracuse in the local rag, which was rich coming from a bunch of teddy boys who missed their era by a full 20 years, and for a long time Meighan kept the cutting pinned to a wall as a spur. But Pizzorno admits they were an unprepossessing lot back then. “We looked like car thieves,” he says.

Pizzorno appears more worldly wise than his mate, the ex-sheet metal worker. But, asked what constituted downtime after coming off the road following the last, 400-gig tour, even he responds: “I kind of just f****n’ knocked about the house watching DVDs and f****n’ that was about it.”

With Kasabian, it would be very easy to repeat a criticism once directed at Noel Gallagher: that they should read more books. But the Stone Roses and Primal Scream, too, have got away with some ropey lyrics throughout their careers so why shouldn’t this lot sing about “love in Technicolor” and “cloak and dagger” and “bar-room brawl”, all of it in the same verse of the new album’s opening number?

The record is saved by the music. The Roses and the Primals may be more lauded for marrying rock with dance, but much of West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum is properly thrilling. Maybe Dan the Automator, who was one half of Handsome Boy Modelling School and had a hand in DJ Shadow’s seminal Endtroducing before twiddling knobs for Gorillaz, can take much of the credit here, although with Kasabian you’re always only ever five seconds away from some more self-mythology. “If I think about this,” says Pizzorno, “the way us white kids from Leicester got into hip hop was just like the young Stones digging the blues.”

Back in the 60s, says Meighan, “music was people’s lives; it’s not any more”. Pizzorno reckons it’s a duller scene now. “Where’s David Bowie these days? And Marc Bolan?” Meighan chuckles at mention of the T.Rex idol. “Keep your bezel straight – Bolan said that.” Sorry? “You know, the brush underneath Scalextric cars…”

This is pretty funny, but if I’m honest I thought Kasabian would be more amusing company today – all those jibes at the expense of rival groups suggested as much. Pizzorno reveals they’ve tried to cut them out, not so much because they’ve matured, but because “there’s no one left to slag”.

Being the last band left standing must be a serious business, and if nothing else I respect their straight talking and their straight bezels, to say nothing of their big kahoonas. v

West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum is released 8 June. Kasabian play the Caird Hall, Dundee, 16 June; Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh (supporting Oasis), 17 June; and 02 Academy, Glasgow, 18 June www.myspace.com/kasabian

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