Interview: Kasabian

Kasabian are back in town next week following the release of their third album West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum. ANDY WELCH spoke to them

THEY have had an epiphany. Despite having sold nearly two million records and been invited to tour with good friends Oasis, Kasabian have only just realised they’re a success.

So says frontman Tom Meighan.

“It’s weird, man. We were doing Jools Holland the other week and we were the biggest band on it. Before, we’ve been on with big names, Smokey Robinson, Jarvis Cocker and people. We were looking at the list for this one, and those names aren’t there – we’re the biggest band. It’s funny…” he says, chuckling, pleased with himself. “About time.”

Kasabian have just hit the charts again with their cryptically titled third album West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum.

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“It was a real hospital in Wakefield. Serge Pizzorno, guitarist and songwriter, saw it on a documentary and thought it was a cool name and that was about it,” he explains.

It is also a homage to the psychedelic albums of the 60s, albums with ludicrous titles and equally preposterous content.

“That’s it, brother,” asserts the 28-year-old.

“All those mad records, like The Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request, or Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake by The Small Faces. None of the titles really make sense, and that’s what we wanted, in a way, but to make it modern and for the 21st-century.”

West Ryder’s sleeve continues that tip of the hat too, with the Kasabian boys getting out the dressing up box. Meighan looks particularly dapper in a Nelson-esque military costume.

“It’s like an English heritage psychedelia front cover, but it’s pretty evil-looking too. That’s what we wanted, that was our concept,” he says, pausing. “That, and to make it really, really good.”

A swaggering frontman from the simian school of Liam Gallagher and Ian Brown, Meighan’s never been short of confidence.

Now, with their best, most ambitious album in the shops, he’s positively brimming with emotion.

Thankfully, that cocksure streak doesn’t manifest itself as arrogance – he’s too likeable for that. Instead, it’s his boundless enthusiasm that comes to the fore.

“I’m so excited at the moment,” he says. “As well as confused, on edge, you know, all these emotions are coming up before the album comes out. I’m not sleeping properly, neither is Serge.

“I don’t know if other bands get that pattern, but I just can’t switch off, it’s bizarre. I go to bed for about two hours, but I can’t sleep. I’m just waiting for things to happen. It’s what we’re like when we’re on tour as well,” he says.

The band have been away from the public eye for around a year, although nine months of that was spent recording what would become West Ryder.

After getting to a point with the album, “about 70% done”, Kasabian decamped to San Francisco to seek out the services of renowned producer Dan ‘The Automator’ Nakamura, highly acclaimed for his work with Beck, Gorillaz, DJ Shadow and various hip-hop artists including Busta Rhymes and Kool Keith.

“He’s not a natural choice, I guess,” he admits, “but Serge has wanted to work with him for a while. It was amazing to get him, and to have another pair of ears on the album to guide us through. He’s brought out the big beats and the album sounds amazing.”

Being out on America’s West Coast clearly suited him. Having only been there while touring before, he says it was good to be in one place for a length of time, and feels the city energised his singing.

“You don’t get more psychedelic than Haight-Ashbury,” he says, referring to the district of San Francisco synonymous with 1967’s so-called Summer Of Love and fledgling hippy scene.

“I think being there improved my singing 100%, gave me more of an edge. Dan’s studio is underneath his house, which was lovely. I escaped for four weeks or so.

“I still didn’t do much sightseeing,” he adds. “Although last time we toured I went to that horrible little island, Alcatraz.

“Walking around there was horrible. They should leave the contestants from Britain’s Got Talent there. Get them on a boat and send them there.”

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