by Matt Barton
“I’m currently on the Sunset Strip at the Rock & Reily’s Irish bar in L.A. We just came from Europe so we’ve got a few days off of R and R and then we start the North American tour in just under a week. I’ve got a pint here. I’m ready to go.”
This is how Airbourne drummer Ryan O’Keeffe kicks off our interview, it sums up perfectly the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle that the Aussie hard rockers lead, so the obvious question is – why rock and roll?
“We grew up listening to rock ‘n’ roll.” O’Keeffe states. “It’s kinda who we are and it made us who we are. It brings out a good time in such a world where people . . . where there’s just negativity everywhere but you’re put on the planet to have a good time and there’s no better music than rock ‘n’ roll to have a good time with.” Amen to that!
The band’s fourth album Breakin’ Outta Hell (which will be released on September 23rd) was recorded at the infamous Sing Sing studios in Melbourne. They even got the legendary Mike Fraser (who’s worked with everyone from AC/DC to Norah Jones and even Russell Crowe‘s band 30 Odd Foot of Grunt) to mix and engineer the album.
“He actually flew out and physically put the mics on the drums and the amps and set up the microphones and worked the tape. To work with somebody that experienced. . . it is surreal doing that in Australia. I think it was the first time he’d actually been to Australia.”
It certainly sounds like a dream come true for the band. Airbourne‘s latest effort comes three years after the success that was Black Dog Barking. It turns out, that album was to be their last on Roadrunner Records.
“Well the option was up with Roadrunner,” O’Keeffe says, “and a lot of people we’d worked with had moved on and Spinefarm had a real fresh approach to the rock ‘n’ roll scene and what they wanna do with rock ‘n’ roll bands so it just seemed like the perfect fit.”
Listening to the album one thing is quite clear – how heavily the band is influenced by Motorhead. Especially the track Thin The Blood. Ironically enough, this isn’t even the song they wrote as a tribute to the late Lemmy Kilmister who passed away in December of last year.
“Well, we are heavily influenced by Motorhead,” O’Keeffe admits, clearly pleased, “so that’s really good to hear that. Motorhead kinda has a bit of a punk vibe sometimes and that song almost does sound a bit punk. It’s definitely the fastest song we’ve ever made. What’s actually crazy though is the song we did write about Lemmy. The last song It’s All For Rock ‘n’ Roll was actually written about Lemmy which is a lot slower. That song was the last one written and it was along the same kinda vibe, it was about rock ‘n’ roll but it just wasn’t hitting the spot. The lyrics weren’t enough and then I’m pretty sure Joel [O’Keeffe, vocals/guitar] came up with the title It’s All For Rock ‘n’ Roll and I just said to Joel ‘I know what this needs to be about. This has gotta be about Lemmy’, and then the verses just came together, like, quicker than anything. They just came spurting out.”
There’s always the talk that, being in an Australian band, it’s hard to make it overseas. Don’t tell Airbourne that, though. They’ve carved it up around the world and even at some of the biggest music festivals including Hellfest in France and Download in England. Ryan jokes about the first time they played Hellfest about how they almost missed their spot completely.
“The first time we played it, we almost didn’t make the stage,” he laughs, “because we arrived early that morning in a van from Spain and everyone had to take Valium to sleep and then everyone slept in and just before stage time everyone woke up and ran to the stage. There was hair everywhere and they threw the guitars on the guys and next thing we were in front of the crowd.”
Next year, the band are finally returning to Australia for some live shows. It’s their first in their home country since 2013.
“It’s been a while,” O’Keeffe agrees. “It’s always great playing Australia with the crazy, wild Aussie fans swigging their VB’s everywhere. It’s always a good time.”
The band is also playing Street Machine’s Summernat’s Festival in Canberra while they’re here. A festival, O’Keeffe admits, the promoters have been trying to get them on for a while.
“I think they’ve wanted us to play that for a while but our scheduling has never lined up so we never able to do it back then. This time around, fortunately, we are available, so it’ll be a lot of fun.”
To wrap up the interview I ask him what he gets up to when he gets some time off; his answer was completely unsurprising and very Australian.
“Hang out with me mates at the pub.” he smiles. “Most of my friends in Melbourne all work in pubs so yeah, just have a few beers, have a few yarns and then start working on my next record.”
If Airbourne isn’t the most Aussie band going around then I don’t know who is?
Airbourne east coast Australian tour dates
Saturday, Jan. 7th – Summernats, Canberra
Friday, Jan. 13th – The Metro Theatre, Sydney
Saturday, Jan. 14th – The Triffid, Brisbane
Friday, Jan. 20th – Trak, Melbourne