Kasabian Q&A

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Kasabian, the Leicester bad boys who are as ruthless with their banter as they are with their riffs, released their third album, West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, this week. Esquire sat down with the irrepressible lead guitarist Serge Pizzorno and singer Tom Meighan to talk about records and rabble-rousing (which, in Kasabian terms, means business as usual).

ESQ: So what’s the feel of the new album?

TOM MEIGHAN: I call it a modern-day, 21st-century rock’n’roll record. It’s very fresh. It’s the sound of us. There’s hip-hop and dub in there, drum and bass, stuff like that, and our dance/electronic side, and then we’ve got the psychedelia of the English essence in it.

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ESQ: Do you feel part of an English tradition?

TM: Yeah! Completely!

SERGE PIZZORNO: It’s eccentric in places and very humorous, like the title and the cover. There’s a not-taking-yourself-too-seriously vibe going on. It seems a pretty boring, mediocre time for music, in the mainstream anyway. This is a fucking bomb to go, “Come on! Wake up!” We’re trying to do something – to challenge people. There’s more to life than giving them what they want. 

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ESQ: Speaking of eccentric… Talk us through that cover art. What’s that all about?

TM: He’s always wanted to be a priest, I’ve always wanted to be Napoleon.

ESQ: And what are the other two supposed to be?!

SP: Ian [Matthews, drummer] is a stag, you know like, what’s it called, the film, Christopher Lee…

TM: Not Wicker Man is it?

SP: Yeah, Wicker Man. Chris [Edwards, bassist] is sort of like a little pauper, but a renegade one. But the concept is we’re about to join a fancy dress ball at the asylum, so we’re sort of getting ready to go out.

TM: It’s massive.

ESQ: Is it all a bit tongue-in-cheek?

TM: It’s serious and not serious. I’d like people to think, “Who do they think they are? What do they think they’re doing? They think they’re some kind of iconic people.” Well yeah, we are. Give a shit. I know for a fact that every band in England is looking at that now and shitting themselves going, “Wow, fuck me.” [Laughs.]

SP: [Laughs] That’s the beauty of it.

ESQ: Sounds like you’ve come out fighting.

SP: We always come out fighting.

ESQ: Who are your opponents?

TM: Dunno, it’s just who we are. Kind of a fucking salute. It’s like [with the song] “Underdog”: “Kill me if you dare.” I suppose in a rock’n’roll way it’s like rap lyrics, you know?

ESQ: Three albums in, do you still feel like you've got something to prove?

SP: I don’t think it’s about proving ourselves. Everyone has their different ways of getting themselves out of bed into the world. And I think we’ve found this adrenalin hit. I couldn’t stand in front of 50,000 people if I didn’t feel that way. I couldn’t do it.

ESQ: You’re on tour with Oasis right now. What’s your bus like these days?

SP: A pirate ship. It feels like one - well I’ve never been on one but I imagine. Loads of men in bunks. Horrible. It’s quite seedy really.

ESQ: Do you get sick of each other after a while?

SP: We’re not that volatile, though I think six weeks into a tour you can have a pretty angry sound check.

TM: We’ve not got to that stage yet where we go, “Right, I’m not going to speak to that cunt for a year.” It hasn’t come to that yet.

SP: There’s no real fiery characters. We pretty much get on with it.

ESQ: That’s quite strange, considering that you're quite a fiery band.

SP: It’s weird. I think that’s probably where we channel it all.

ESQ: Liam Gallagher’s got his new clothing range out right now. Would you ever consider a Kasabian line?

SP: Kasabian range? It would be like fucking Captain Beefheart.

TM: There’d be loads of stripey tops, wouldn’t there.

ESQ: Tom, you described your second record, Empire, as being like “Wolverine but with an extra set of claws”. Is there a superhero for this one?

TM: I don’t know, I’d probably leave the X-Men alone. I’d probably say that this is based on The Joker. It actually says in the record [in the song “Vlad The Impaler”], “Joker, we’ll see you on the other side” as a tribute to Heath Ledger. No one’s really picked up on that.

SP: They haven’t actually. It was written around the time of him dying. I’d never met the guy…

TM: But we found it really sad.

SP: Just felt like he was young, he’d done this amazing performance, and I know so many people that go out, get fucking massive, and do a few sleepers or whatever and it just sent a shiver. I thought, “Fuck, man. That’s close to home.” It could have been one of my mates.

TM: One of us.

SP: Yeah, it just felt like a bit of real shame. Same sort of age, I just wanted to say, he seemed like a good chap.

ESQ: Did it change your attitude?

S: It makes you think, definitely, it really does. I don’t know whether it’ll do any good, but it makes you think.

ESQ: How long do you see yourself maintaining your rock’n’roll lifestyle?

SP: It’s really difficult. It’s funny seeing all the interviews with bands still going and hearing them say, “We’re never going to be doing this forever, it’s a young man’s game,” but they’re all still going. It’s one of things – if you’re a footballer you get to a certain age when you can’t run any more. As long as you can stand up and your voice doesn’t go, your bones don’t give in, you can pretty much do it for a long time.

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A longer profile piece, “Access All Areas: 24 Hours With Kasabian”, will appear In the forthcoming August issue of Esquire (on sale 6 July)

Photograph by Hamish Brown