Tom Meighan and Serge Pizzorno have the air of two men who are both content with the way of their world and itching to keep moving. It’s an understandable state of affairs. Kasabian, the band that the two effectively lead, have just scored their second number one album ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum‘ and played before Bruce Springsteen at Glastonbury, as well as the small matter of Oasis shows across Ireland and the UK. Not bad for a band from the less than credible hometown of Leicester. Here are their thoughts on Kasabian’s last few incredible months….
THE NEW ALBUM, WEST RYDER PAUPER LUNATIC ASYLUM – WHAT CAME FIRST, THE MUSIC, THE CONCEPT OR THE TITLE OF THE ALBUM?
Tom – They kind of fell together. I think Serge had a bit too much to smoke one night, watched a programme on a mental asylum on TV, and had this thing to make an album that’s really out there.
Serge – Yeah that’s bang on, absolutely.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE ASYLUM ITSELF.
Serge – To be honest with you it’s the words that I actually like. It’s got nothing to do with the place, there’s no relation to anything, I just like the words, the name, I like the idea of madness, and music kind of entwines. If you call an album that it pretty much gives you the freedom to go wherever you want. That’s what I was interested in.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE ARTWORK THIS TIME?, WHEREAS THE FIRST TWO ALBUMS WERE QUITE SIMPLE COVERS, HERE YOU’VE FOLLOWED A THEME. IN THIS DIGITAL DAY AND AGE ARTWORK USUALLY DISAPPEARS.
Serge – That’s what we’re in to. The music that we listen to and the bands that we like, that’s what they used to do. I think it’s died a bit and we wanted to’¦.. well, it’s just different to the first two records and it’s as simple as that. It’s like Tom’s Napoleon, I’m a priest and Ian’s like this mad pagan’¦..Chris is a renegade pauper. It’s like fancy dress at the Christmas ball at the asylum. And the mirror’s kind of a reflection of the band so that you can kind of see it in two ways. It just adds to this incredible album.
DO YOU THINK THAT PEOPLE HAVE FORGOTTEN HOW TO LISTEN TO AN ALBUM FROM START TO FINISH?
Tom – I think the value has kind of disappeared. It’s all about one song nowadays and you buy it for 79p or whatever it costs but I just think that’s the generation we live in now. The fact is that we’ve made a great album that we hope can reach everyone and they’ll listen to the whole thing instead of buying one song of it.
DID YOU WANT THE RECORD TO TAKE THE LISTENER ON A JOURNEY?
Serge – We had so many different combinations on how it was going to start and finish. It had taken ages and then one day Tom came in the studio and said look I’ve been listening to it and the only way that we can start is with -Underdog’, it seems perfect. Then once we had that as a start it all made perfect sense. Yeah I mean having ‘Swarfiga’ third and having the first (UK) single 11th , again it’s a piece of work, a body of work. It’s art you know. It’s not about putting the big things at the start and then not really caring, we really cared. I think you underestimate, I think people are cleverer than you give them credit for, they do want a challenge, to sit there, and live with it and then it becomes a part of their lives.
AFTER NINE MONTHS OF RECORDING WERE THERE A LOT OF SONGS LEFT OVER?
Serge – Yeah there’s a sort of bag full’¦. Again, they didn’t fit with the sound. We didn’t want to ruin what we had. It was all about that, it was all about what a song from West Ryder…. should sound like.
SO THEN YOU UPPED STICKS FROM LEICESTER TO SAN FRANCISCO, WHY PICK THERE?
Serge – Dan’s (producer Dan The Automator) studio was there and he got involved towards the end of the album. We did the vocals there and then we mixed it there as well.
WHO CAME UP WITH THE IDEA OF WORKING WITH HIM?
Serge – Well, it was just right, he worked on the first DJ Shadow record and I’ve always been a massive fan. All the songs were formed, they all had a direction so we needed someone who knew where they were at, NOT a rock and roll producer. We’d got these tunes to a point where we needed someone who would know what to do with like ‘Take Aim’, which had a real hip hop feel to it. That’s how it sounded so you need someone who could mix those tunes.
HOW DID THE DUET WITH ROSARIO DAWSON COME ABOUT?
Tom – Our manager knows her manager, she come to see us at the Isle Of Wight. That’s pretty much it, Sergio thought it’d be cool to get her on a track, like a Mickey and Mallory Natural Born Killers romantic thing going on.
HAD YOU HEARD HER SING BEFORE?
Serge – No never, we just naively assumed that all actresses can sing and dance, do everything and that we could do a duet with her. But she was incredible and again it just adds to the psychedelic nature. It’s not the obvious thing, not a singer, firstly, and she’s not from this country but it’s just a really, really good tune.
LOOKING AT A FEW OF THE SONGS THEN, HOW ABOUT ‘VLAD THE IMPALER’?
Serge – it started with this crazy bass line. It was a really aggressive sort of song and didn’t have a title, it needed something quite menacing ‘¦. I happened to be reading about him at the time. I loved the idea…he used to put his enemies heads on spikes and have dinner round it and I thought it was kind of like us in a way. I think we quite enjoyed sitting around the dinner table with all the shit bands in the world going around in our heads.
Tom – We always looked at Beastie Boys’ tracks like Sabotage and we always wanted to do our English version of Beastie Boys. Serge wanted that beat, a Beastie Boys punk like thing.
WHAT ABOUT ‘WHERE DID ALL THE LOVE GO’?
Serge – I had these nice chords and it wrote itself really. It’s just posing a question. Everything that’s thrown at you and the loss of innocence that we have now, all this growing up too quickly and the internet flies bullshit at you all the time. It’s just talking about that really.
Tom – It’s like a modern reflection of England, Britain. All this crime, and teenagers getting stabbed and stuff, horrible.
Serge – There’s no preaching going on, it’s just asking the question.
‘FIRE’ SEEMS TO BE THE ALBUM’S CENTRAL MOMENT?
Tom – Serge came over and he’s got this blue’s lick and it’s kind of Elvis Presley on acid kinda style. And it’s like two split personalities; there’s a really calm and sexy person the other one wants to fucking tear your head off’¦you know it’s like schizophrenic ‘¦how it changes is incredible and I think that’s in everyone you know and I think it’s just two songs in one really but yeah just really beautiful and like 21st century rock.
DID THE NEW MATERIAL WORK STRAIGHT AWAY LIVE?
Serge – The first proper show we did back was in Brighton and’¦’¦it was electric! The energy in the room and the euphoric sort of feeling’¦and ‘Fire’ I mean I’ve never seen anything like it of a new song being played and the whole room was just bouncing you know literally the building was fuckin’….it was on fire.
Tom – That was a moment that we haven’t had that in a few years’¦it was just a moment when I’ve felt we’d come this far and we’d accomplished a lot of things we went out to do, but this felt like we moved up a little bit. You get that feeling every now and then when everything’s right (but) it doesn’t happen all the time, I mean our gigs are amazing I’m not saying we play wrong but this would just work you know..
THIRD RECORDS CAN BE JUST AS MAKE OR BREAK AS THE ‘DIFFICULT SECOND’ ALBUMS?
Serge – Yeah definitely you do get those like exactly what Tom just said’¦cos you just don’t know you’re locked away and we’ve made an insane album with an insane title and everything’s changed and you don’t know how everyone’s gonna feel about it, but that’s the exciting bit and then when you see it all kick off you’re like -ok we’re gonna be alright’.
OASIS WERE A HUGE INFLUENCE ON YOU, SO IS IT SURREAL PLAYING WITH THEM AT THE LIKES OF SLANE AND WEMBLEY?
Serge – Well we played with them in America in 2005 so’¦
Tom – It used to be surreal but it ain’t anymore. We’ve molded into our own kind of status you know and they’ve got their own status and those were amazing shows because you’ve got The Enemy in London and The Prodigy at Slane, we were on and you’ve got Oasis and ‘¦it was just fantastic man, you know for the spectator.
YOU’VE BEEN PRETTY SCATHING ABOUT THE LACK OF GREAT ROCK N’ ROLL BANDS THESE DAYS…
Tom – It’s not the lack mate it’s just the breed man
Serge – I think it’s just more characters and people with something to say than ‘rock n roll’. I’m not a believer in that bullshit anyway. It’s all sort of geared up to’¦’¦you know you gotta look a certain way and say a certain thing’¦not that you’ve gotta be the same as us for instance, you’ve just gotta be yourself and you know have something to say. It would be great if someone like David Bowie came along and just you know fucked everything up again and everyone’s like ‘wow what’s this’ or Mark Bolan or Mick Jagger you know there’s just no’¦..everyone just seems pretty normal’¦there’s no Sid Vicious’¦I’m pretty bored.
Tom – You know (along with) what Serge was saying I think that not to blow smoke up our own arses or anything I do think there’s a quality about us’¦.an enigma about us and I think that we’re one of the last people to look up to and hold onto as a band’¦.you wear a band like you love a band don’t you and I think we’re one of the last of that lot you know I really believe that.
Serge – I think we keep people guessing forever’¦you see people think they’ve got us pinned and they ain’t got a clue and that’s the enigma you know, no one’s ever gonna get it right because it’s going to completely baffle them every time. It’s just how we’ve been from the start you know, our first single was called ‘Club Foot’ man, you know you’ve got to remember we’ve thrown in all this ‘psychedelia’ from the start.
FINALLY, TELL US WHAT YOU REALLY THINK OF EACH OTHER….
Serge – Exactly what we’ve just been saying is missing from music, rock n roll and any sort of’¦.you know what we do you know someone that’s completely unique in themselves and never once pretends or tries to act like anyone else or be like anyone else’¦just them. They’re the most incredible people because you just can’t touch them because they’re them there’s only one and there’ll only ever be one you know throughout the years of rock n roll you can sort of name them and there’s none (hardly) and Tom’s one of them’¦..he’s very funny as well’¦very funny’¦on a hang over anyway. As a frontman, yeah well I can stand there and say it’¦he’s the fucking greatest of his generation’¦.of Tom’s generation you know no one comes near him.
Tom – that’s really nice thank you’¦..Sergio he’s just like kind of a silent, whispery sort of guy, quite a gentle softly spoken you know I’m the complete opposite of him but he’s got it all stored in his brain and he takes a lot of information in and again people don’t really know how to take Serge and I know him more than anyone and he’s kind of like a gentle giant man but when he lets it rip he lets it go you know he deals with a lot of stuff you know the writing, the spokesman of the band and stuff like that. You know they way he handles a situation with the band and stuff he’s the leader you know the way he handles the situation when we’re busy and stuff he takes a lot of shit’¦he’s Serge man he’s a genius you know what else can I say.
West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum is out now on Sony.