Easy Ryders - Kasabian interview
It’s taken a while, but Kasabian are finally as big as they always thought they deserved to be. Jonny Ensall chats to singer Tom Meighan and finds out that fame and critical validation have calmed one of the biggest egos in rock
Last month, on 28 August, Oasis finally split up. Noel and Liam had seen enough of each other’s Mancunian mugs to decide they couldn’t share a stage together and so the curtain fell on Britpop’s greatest adventure. Likely as it is that the Gallagher brothers will eventually kiss and make up, their split has come at a critical moment for Kasabian, who have been biding their time as the support act and now are set to overtake their heroes as the stadium superstars. In the annals of rock history, autumn 2009 may not be marked out by the end of Oasis, but by the true beginning of Kasabian.
Or perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. It wasn’t long ago that the music press were passing Kasabian off as loud ladrock, good for clubs, Channel 4 youth programming, football matches and little else. These criticisms still linger, but the slimming down of the band to the core talents of singer Tom Meighan and guitarist Serge Pizzorno, accompanied by Chris Edwards and Ian Matthews on bass and drums respectively, and their decision as a band to just calm down a little bit, have resulted in a slight but noticeable shift in public opinion. Kasabian, believe it or not, are cool. Not just among twentysomething males in hatchbacks, but also among discerning music listeners, like the Mercury Prize panel who, by the time this goes to press, may have made Kasabian’s third effort, West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, the record of the year.
It is, as Tom Meighan agrees, their best album to date. ‘It’s so cinematic, man’, he exclaims excitedly over the phone, citing Ennio Morricone as an influence. ‘Serge is influenced big time by that stuff, which is cool. There’s a bit of Tarantino in there as well, a bit of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, a bit of Clint Eastwood.’
Overall, it is a more measured album, with sensitive orchestration courtesy of Serge and new producer Dan the Automator. The lyrics are pulled straight from the Easy Rider school of pseudo-philosophy and, although dubious, are delivered with impressive bravado by Tom, kicking the record along at an assured pace.
And so I’m surprised when Meighan doesn’t come across with the surly self-confidence I had expected. He’s finishing off lunch with his family when I call, and has found a moment to pop outside for a quick chat about the band’s bright future. ‘It’s bizarre to be admired … people actually give a shit now, which is pretty weird. The Mercury Prize thingy, and the record’s doing fantastically, when it could have bombed, cos it was a risk. Well in some people’s opinion it was a risk, but I always thought it was gonna do all right. But yeah, it’s been fantastic.’
It’s not the opening gambit I had expected from one of the most outspoken voices in rock, but then the Mercury nomination has changed a few things. Tom Meighan is now tongue-tied and humble in the face of his new-found critical acclaim. ‘The thing is mate, it’s proper serious, innit. I mean, the people who get nominated, they’re proper music heads. And I think we just made a crossover when they nominated us for it. I think it’s pretty incredible really.’
What about those fellow music heads? ‘La Roux is great. I fuckin’ love La Roux. It’s about time we had a proper popstar again. You know, she looks like a popstar. Florence and the Machine is great, and I love Glasvegas.’
As nice as it is to chat to him in this way, humility is not Meighan’s strongest suit, particularly onstage. Following their tour in support of Oasis, the band now have their own stadium odyssey to commence with this autumn, taking in the Glasgow SECC among the nation’s other biggest arenas over ten dates in November. Nobody is expecting anything other than balls-out rock’n’roll audacity.
‘It’s like a twister mate,’ Meighan says of the stage show. ‘Everyone’s just sucked into it man, and everyone’s just involved. We’ve got this thing that works really well and we captivate the audience and feed off ’em.’
Are the shows ever ‘a bit raucous’? ‘Bring some body armour mate, bring a helmet. Nah, it’s good, we’re a lot better. We’re a great live band, and we give people a thrill, we give them what they want, and they stay with us as well, and that’s why we’re doing so well, people want to see that again and again.’
The enduring appeal of rock’n’roll is both Kasabian’s meal ticket and their raison d’etre. For Meighan, sound-alike Oasis songs on Kasabian’s new album are just traces of a musical legend past living on in the present. Copying doesn’t come into it, because it’s all just rock’n’roll – the music of the people. ‘I think that one thing we have proved is that what we do is very real. We’re not a contemporary band, we’re not with any kind of fad or fashion or at the break of a scene, which the press would always love to put people in. I think we’re the people’s band of 21st century fuckin’ music mate, I really believe that.’
Kasabian play Glasgow SECC, Thu 12 Nov.