Supporting the likes of Iron Maiden and touring all across the world is a far cry from the tranquil country surrounds of Warrnambool. Local rockers Airbourne have channelled an old-school rock sound – having success by giving it a contemporary edge. With their new album, ‘Black Dog Barking’ coming out this month, Killyourstereo.com chats with drummer Ryan O’Keeffe.
G’day Ryan, how’s it going?
Good thanks man, how are you going?
Yeah, going well thanks mate.
How are the US shows treating you so far?
Really good. We just got off stage a couple of hours ago. It was a really good gig. They’ve all been really good. We’ve been playing ‘Live It Up’ off the new album and it has been going down really well, so it has been good.
Obviously just then you mentioned the new album, which I can imagine would be exciting for you, with it about to come out. What was the emphasis going into this one?
We wanted to really get it right. We wanted it to be definitive of the band and have every song really hold its own place on the record. It is a ten track album and we are really, really happy with it and can’t wait for it to come out.
Being the third studio album you’re probably a bit more experienced about how to go about recording the album. When it comes time to go into the studio what is the process? Is it like, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ or are you trying to change things up?
It is a bit of both. We know how to do our rock ‘n’ roll and put it on the tape. I guess every time you tend to start where you left off and we just get in there and keeping working. We used the same amps we used on the last record and stuff like that, but Brian Howes our producer had a bunch of gear that was left over from Little Mountain Studios in Canada, which was Bruce Fairbairn’s old studio. Lots of cool equipment they used to use on Aerosmith and all that kinda stuff. We are always trying to raise the bar and get better and better.
When you do eventually get back to Australia for a couple of runs soon, I see your first show is back in your home town of Warrnambool. Being boys from a country town here in Victoria, what do you miss most about home?
I could say the football but we have a stream box, which streams it to our computers. We are able to watch that, the time difference doesn’t help [though]. I guess the beer, VB (laughs) …KFC (laughs).
I was actually going to ask that later about the footy, I’m a Geelong man myself, which team do you guys support?
Unfortunately, the Melbourne Demons.
Ok, I won’t talk any further about the footy then.
Another question about touring and being in a band. Early on, when you were first touring overseas and touring with bands that had been around for much longer, how much experience and what lessons did you take for how they went about it and what they told you?
I guess touring with other big acts you realise they are really down to earth and just really nice people. You take a good look at their crew and how they build these massive shows. When we toured with Iron Maiden in the UK that was great, we learnt a lot of from them. Just every day in, day out, just constant shows, it was really good.
For yourself personally, growing up what was the first record that made you want to pick up the drumsticks?
Probably seeing ‘Thunderstruck’ on TV. I remember watching the film clip on Rage when I was a kid. It was just a big rock song that grabs a hold of you. Joel and I watched that and I guess from that day we just knew exactly what we wanted to do.
In terms of being a touring band and functioning, would you say over time it gets harder or easier being in a band?
For us it is the only way to live. For instance, when we were home for a bit, we were going more insane than we were on the road. On the tour bus is where we feel we belong and I think the other guys all agree as well.
That’s an interesting point because quite a few bands say that you just get into the repetition of playing show after show and travelling to different countries. When you do get time away from the band and go home, does it make you, as you said, go insane because you don’t know what to do with yourself?
We just go to the pub a lot (laughs).
You watch a lot of sport – cricket, footy. You’ve got that much spare time on your hands that the only thing you do is go to the pub and hang out with mates a lot and do that really.
On the topic of pubs, I guess that’s another side of touring. How does the beer and social side overseas compare with Australia?
It depends. You get knowledge. For instance, we’ve been touring in the States now and it is hard to find a beer in the States. We’ve been fortunate to find that Heineken is all coming out from Holland now, so there is none of those types of chemicals, which is good. I guess Europe you’ve Germany, which has some of the greatest beer on the planet and we are going to be there really soon actually, so we are looking forward to that. You just try all different kinds of beer. But, it is just good to have a break from Australia because you come home and get the fish ‘n’ chips and a big stack of VB and put the cricket on…and life’s great (laughs).
Touring can open yourself up to a lot of interesting experiences, what has been one of Airbourne’s Spinal Tap moment?
To be honest we have Spinal Tap moments every day (laughs). Like today, I couldn’t find the stage – that actually happened (laughs). Just every show [we have a moment]. It is amazing how accurate that film is…it could practically be a documentary (laughs).
A lot of your influences are classic rock bands that have been doing it for decades. For you guys, you’ve been doing this for quite a few years now, can you afford to look in to the future? Or are you just focused on the current run of shows?
Just to keep doing this [is a focus]. The more we do this, the more we grow. It is one of those things where as long as we keep playing we are going to keep growing. We’ll just keep playing and keep moving onwards and upwards.
From a drummer perspective, currently are there any particular drummers that are influencing you?
When we played with Maiden I watched Nicko McBrain quite a bit from behind the kit. The way he plays, no one really plays like Nicko. Just to watch him play [was cool]. That style of drumming is Nicko’s style, no one else really plays like that. It was really good to see. That tour was probably one of my favourite tours we’ve done.
When you were mentioning before about when you are home getting to go to the pub and watch the footy, when you are away from touring and recording, will sit down behind the kit and practice much? Or when you are home you just divorce yourself from music completely?
I honestly don’t sit behind the kit that much actually unless we start rehearsing or start working on songs. But, if we are working on songs that is usually every day. Usually on my time off, I’ll just, like I said, go to the footy (laughs). I might play a video game here and there (laughs).
What are some albums you are really digging at the moment?
It’s more a few songs I can think of more than albums. The Stones released that new song ‘Doom and Gloom’ [last year] and Sabbath’s new song as well. It is really good to see that in the market – a bit of old school sound on the radio is always healthy.
I must admit I was fortunate enough to see Sabbath when they were down here in Melbourne recently, when you see bands like that who have been around for a long time and are still turning out music and the longevity of it all. Is that real motivation for you guys?
Yeah, we’ve always watched those bands get continually bigger and bigger. And they surprisingly just keep climbing and they never stop. We feel very similar in that in the respect, we’ll be like that when we are that age, we’ll definitely be doing what we are doing. I mean, Joel and I being brothers it is just our way of life. We wouldn’t be able to stop and stay at home and doing something else because all we want to do is be on stage.
If you could give advice to a young kid looking to start a band what would it be?
Play what you want to play and don’t listen to anyone that tries to shut you down. If you want to do it, start planning. We moved to Melbourne and lived in a house on the dole for three years. We were specifically there on the dole and didn’t get jobs because if we got jobs it took our mind off getting gigs. So we got on the dole and went around to venues in Melbourne asking if they needed a band to play. If you really want this, you can get it. You just have to put your heart and soul into it and you will get it.
Before you were talking about touring with Maiden and some of the cool things you’ve had the chance to do. What’s something though that you’d still like to do that you haven’t had the chance yet?
Just keep playing. Just keep moving up the ladder and supporting those big bands is always great. We’d love to support Slash. We’d still really love to support AC/DC [too]. We’ve played with Metallica on a festival, but we’ve never been main support to them, so that would cool. Sabbath would be nice as well (laughs).
Just before we let you go were there any final words you wanted to pass on?
Just make sure you take the day off after work, whoever your mate is that has a bigger stereo, go to his house and have a BBQ and make a day of it when the album comes out. It took us two years to make it, so all we ask is just have a massive day, get on the piss, and send us a photo on Facebook (laughs).
Awesome, really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us today Ryan. Hopefully, Melbourne gets a win for you boys soon.
Thanks mate, cheers.
Airbourne Australian tour dates –
Tickets are also on Sale May 17 at 9am EST from www.airbournerock.com
Friday 19 July 2013 – Whalers Hotel, Warrnambool, VIC
Saturday 20 July 2013 – Corner Hotel, Richmond, VIC
Friday 26 July 2013 – ANU Bar, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 27 July 2013 – HiFi Sydney, NSW
Sunday 28 July 2013 – Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay, NSW