Kasabian: Asylum Seekers

Despite 3 cracking albums and numbers that keep stacking in their favour from sold out shows to albums sold and singles charted, Kasabian are something of an enigma. What we do know is they are English, wear velvet, consist of Tom Meighan (vocals), Sergio Pizzorno (guitar and vocals), Chris Edwards (bass), Chris Karloff (Keyboards and Guitar) and Ian Matthews (drums) and are Mercury Prize favourites against Florence And The Machine and La Roux no less. They are also dark. Named for Linda Kasabian, the up the duff getaway driver to Sharon Tate’s murderers, they return with album #3 named after a mental asylum. They’re also destined for Malaysia in little over a week for their first ever Asian gig. Little wonder we’re all going a little crazy. Read the interview after the jump.

The new album, West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, lots to talk about, but I guess we should start with what came first: the music, the concept or the title of the album?
Tom Meighan
I think they kind of fell together, you know. I think Serge had a bit too much to smoke one night and he watched a programme on a mental asylum on TV and he to make an album that’s really out there. Each song’s different and has a different characteristic and I think that’s how it happened.

Serge, would you agree with that, would you?
Serge Pizzorno
Yeah. That’s bang on. Absolutely.

Talk a little bit about the asylum, was it Wakefield?
Yeah, but 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.

Let’s just expand on that a little, Gogol – Diary Of A Mad Man, I’ve been told that was an inspiration.
Yeah, yeah totally. It’s an album with 12 really good songs on it, that’s all to me what it is. It just throws it into another world and it’s completely different to the first 2 records, which is what we’re about.

So let’s talk about the process; how long did it take from start to finish?
We started in about January [2008].
Serge About 9 months.
Tom About 9 months, like a pregnancy….
Serge It was like a baby.

Is that what it felt like? Like giving birth?
Well, yeah, it kinda grew, you know. It had a heart beat, a brain and lungs, and the rest kind of came together, you know.

So there are a lot of songs. Are there a lot of discarded songs that are going to B-Sides?
Yeah, there’s a sort of bag full. Again they kinda 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; how did that all come about? And why did you get Dan The Automator in?
Dan’s got a place out there, hasn’t he.
Serge Dan’s 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.

The place itself, did that help in the mixing?
I think it gave me a different kind of head space, different from something in Leicester or something in Bulgaria, it doesn’t matter you know. I think just to escape for a bit, for 3 weeks, that’s how long it took, cause you (to Serge) were there for about 9 weeks, weren’t you?
Serge I was there a long time, yeah.

Okay guys, a couple more songs, ‘Secret Alphabet’, I’ve been told the band has got a secret code.
Well not necessarily a code or anything. When you’re with people for a while you sort of speak your own language. It’s kind of talking about that. It’s actually about this guy, a sort of religious guy, that’s looking for the fountain of eternal youth and has actually taken his group out to Egypt to find it, but then he sort of gets lost in the end.

And the single ‘Fire’?
Serge came over and he’s got this blues lick and it’s kind of Elvis Presley-on-acid kinda style. And it’s like 2 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 2 songs in one really, but yeah just really beautiful and like 21st century rock.

Talking about the summer, you’ve got your tour lined up. Kasabian shows are always good but is there anything extra you’re gonna add to it or is it gonna be a full on rock n roll show?
We’ll be playing West Ryder which is all the extra you need accompanied with the tunes we already have that are you know. Monstrous.
Tom We’ve got backing singers, ain’t we? For ‘Fire’, I call them the dream team. (Beckons to Serge and laughs)
Serge Real sort of Stones-y feel to it.

How many dates are you doing tour-wise?
Serge Fucking hell yeah, a lot.
Tom Probably over the next couple of years 200 dates. Pretty hard core man.

And then squeezed into that you’ve got Wembley with Oasis. Chuffed about that?
Yeah and with The Enemy as well. I mean what a summer to look forward to you know, our own dates, Glastonbury before Bruce Springsteen and then Oasis, and then a record coming out. So yeah, things are … things are gonna get wild I think.
Tom We’ve gotta go round the world to promote our record, which is good you know. Now having 3 records under our belt, it’s cool you know, got a lot of material to pick from.

Sorry to go back to the Oasis thing again. You guys saw them before they hit the big time, is that right?
’97. 16 I was, yeah.

It’s got to be surreal playing on the same bill as them.
Well we played with them in America in 2005 so….
Tom It used to be surreal but it ain’t anymore. We’ve kind of molded our own kind of status you know and they’ve got their own status, and it’s gonna be an amazing show anyway because you’ve got The Enemy, we’re on and you’ve got Oasis and … it’ll just be fantastic man, you know for the spectator.

Going back to Glasto and a billing with Bruce Springsteen, when did that pop up?
I think someone pulled out and we just filled in. And it’s 9 o’clock, it’s the Pyramid Stage, and you know you can’t get bigger than that and Springsteen. You know it’s fantastic so we’ll take the opportunity with both hands.

Are you a fan of his music?
Yeah man.
Serge The tunes that I know … I’ve gotta be honest. I don’t own a back catalogue.
Tom I respect his status though man, and what he’s done you know, he’s incredible.
Serge The 5 or 6 songs I do know are undeniable.

I’m just looking at this one here: “Lack of proper rock n roll bands”.
There’s a lot.

You feel strongly about that?
It’s not the lack mate, it’s just the breed man.
Serge I think it’s just more characters than people who have got something to say. 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. 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 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’ll keep people guessing forever. You see people think they’ve got us pinned and they ain’t gotta clue and that’s the enigma you know. No one’s ever gonna get it right because it’s gonna completely baffle them every time.

It’s not like a challenge, it’s just how it is.
It’s just how we’ve been from the start.

Kasabian’s West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum (Sony Music) is out now. Kasabian perform on MTV World Stage at the Surf Pool, Sunway Lagoon Resort, Saturday 15 August. More Kasabian at www.kasabian.co.uk and at www.myspace.com/kasabian.

Interview + Image Sony Music