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Airbourne In Motion
“These are all still songs about drinkin’, partyin’, women and livin’ life,” beams Airbourne guitarist /vocalist Joel O’Keeffe about his band’s latest effort No Guts , No Glory (Roadrunner Records ). His drawling Australian accent only serves to amplify each aspect of the rock
‘n’ roll trilogy ’s debaucherous necessities : se x, drugs , rock ‘n’ roll . One can almost tell he’s checking them off as they roll out of his mouth.
To the uninitiated, Airbourne are die-hard rockers. Not only do they come from the same land as legendary primal outfit AC/DC but they steadfastly adhere to that formative band’s credo, treating it as their four-chord call-to-arms. In other words, Airbourne only write tunes that revel in simplicities and convey good times; avoid buzz killers like morals, preaching or politics.
Such is the reason their 2007 debut Runnin’ Wild caught on quickly and easily around the world. From the laid back nature of its performers to the unforgettable pelvic grind of each track, it was—and is—blues-based rock for the new generation. However, it has also set an incredibly lofty bar for this highly-anticipated sophomore album. O’Keeffe, however, is far from worried.
“It’s not that different from Runnin’ Wild but we’ve tweaked it just a little bit,” he continues. “We just had fun with what we were doing and didn’t stray too far from what’s natural for us.
But if something seemed just a bit off the mark, we still gave it a shot. I think that’s the key to a strong follow-up album. It’s like a hot rod. You toy with things a bit...just enough to get better performance out of the machine but not enough that you blow it up.”
That said, there was a major degree of ‘blowing up’ involved with the making of the aptly titled No Guts, No Glory. The band (completed by drummer Ryan O’Keeffe, guitarist David Roads and bassist Justin Street - Bass guitar, Backup vocals) made two drastic steps in order to maintain consistency yet ensure there was advancement. Namely, returning to their miniscule home of Warrnambool (population 28,150) and the site of their first-ever live engagement circa 2003/2004. Only then did they feel truly engaged with the creative process thanks to comfort mixed with elements of haggard beauty.
“We took over the Criterion Hotel,” O’Keeffe smirks. “The trouble was, it’s been shut down for many years. The bar itself is closed and there are rats everywhere. A bunch of homeless people have even taken over the rooms. It’s a squatter’s paradise. We had to lock the doors with our gear and put an alarm system on the place so we wouldn’t get ripped off.”
“Of course, people tried,” he continues. “We’d get a call at some ungodly hour because the alarm went off. We’d truck it down to the hotel and try to catch the dudes who were breaking in. ‘What the f**k do you think you’re doing?’ Most of them would have some stupid excuse but one time it was this group of kids who just wanted a place to smoke their bong. I’m like, ‘Well, there are about five cops on their way down here now, so you’d better get moving before they show up and you never get to smoke your bong anywhere ever again.”
Amusing anecdotes aside, in the case of Airbourne, it was this sort of environment that assured nothing but genuine, gritty music came forth. After all, who can write a sincere tune about getting one’s ya-ya’s out after a hard work week when shacked up in some rehearsal space that makes five-star hotels seem like, well, the Criterion?
“That’s exactly our point,” O’Keeffe confirms, adding that his favourite aspect of the entire experience was the overall symbolism...until he heard the end results of No Guts, No Glory, that is. “They gave us the keys and we locked ourselves into the bar with all of our gear. You can’t imagine what it’s like to have someone hand you keys to a bar you don’t own and let you have the run of the place. But we still worked f**kin’ hard to get this album together. It wasn’t just endless playtime. We had an album to turn out.”
Assuring there was a method to their madness of co-opting a decrepit bar for writing and rehearsals, O’Keeffe points out that Airbourne’s self-induced work time resulted in no less than 37 potential songs for the album. However, many were weeded out with an incredibly effective means that only the Criterion could provide. In the process of penning, the quartet would record their progress, invite some buddies over for a few cold ones, crank it through the Public Address system and garner some feedback. Knowing the room and how they sound in it, Airbourne and their advisors were in their element.
“Honestly, we just stood there in the middle of the room, facing the stage,” O’Keeffe laughs. “We’d grab a beer, close our eyes and listen to it. If we felt like we were in a concert—that we were hearing a band playing live and could get into the energy—we knew the song was right. If there was any sort of uneasiness or people didn’t agree, we’d rework or scrap it.”
It’s an unusual concept but the results are indisputable. From the tongue-in-cheek wordplay of Raise The Flag and White Line Fever through no-hold-barred grit of Back On The Bottle and lead single No Way But The Hard Way with its swaggering groove and infectious chorus, No Guts, No Glory’s 13 tracks are an endlessly entertaining romp that O’Keeffe promises features only the aforementioned fun and games.
“Life is hard enough as it is. That wise man Clint Eastwood once said that he takes his work seriously but he doesn’t take himself seriously. Those are words to live by. We all need to cut loose and have some fun. That’s what Airbourne is here for and once you get rockin’, you can’t stop. Partyin’ and rockin’ are like having sex. If you asked someone why they keep having it, what would they say? Because it’s f**kin’ fun, that’s why.”
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