Attempts to dismiss Kasabian as a latter-day Happy Mondays are tempting, but don't quite stick; there's something new going on in their music that transcends the current dance-rock fad and marks them as a band that has the talent and immunity to trends to remain relevant for a very long time.
Kasabian's bassist Chris Edwards called ARTISTdirect from Tempe, Arizona, where the band was in the midst of an American tour with fellow Brit-rockers The Music. Here's what he had to say about Kasabian's early success, influences, headline-grabbing frontman, and who the most overrated band in England is.
How long have you been touring in the States now?
It’s been about a month.
Are you bored sick of it yet or are you still having a good time?
It's really great, it's just the food's too good. It's too rich, you know what I mean? I've grown about four trouser sizes.
You’re missing the food back in England, huh?
Yeah. I need some food that’s not full of cheese and sugar.
And you’re touring right now with The Music. Are you pretty close friends with that band?
We've become quite close friends on this tour. We met once before the tour...in Japan briefly, for like 10 minutes. We've gotten to be pretty close now. We listen to the same stuff and do the same things.
And the bands' sounds are similar.
Yeah. We’re both kind of that danceable rock.
So you guys don't mind being described as dance rock?
Sure, it’s rock you can dance to. It's got a groove, you know what I mean? You can get down to it.
Which for you as the bass player must be fun to play.
Yeah, yeah. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the basslines, which is pretty cool. They stand out in the tracks.
It’s been pretty widely discussed what Kasabian’s influences as a band are, but are there any specific influences that you as a bass player have that people might be surprised to hear?
I've got loads. Noel Redding, who was Hendrix's bass player. I think he was f*cking fantastic.
And he never gets enough credit, really.
No. Him and [drummer] Mitch Mitchell were just awesome. Everyone concentrates on Hendrix, but with those two, they just held their own, you know. They were just awesome. Also John Entwistle from The Who. And I’m not sure of his name, but I like Muses’ bass player as well.
Speaking of John Entwistle, you guys actually got invited to perform with The Who.
That’s right, mate. Summer last year we went and played with The Who, which was amazing experience for us. Those two are really nice guys. And Robert Plant came down. And Zak Starkey was on the drums, he's a real nice guy, as well.
What’s it like meeting some of these guys? Are you all completely star struck?
I don't really get that star struck. I've got this thing, maybe it's just me, but they’re just people. I respect them, and what they’ve done for the music business is amazing. But it is fascinating, because you watch them on old videos and then you see them in the flesh. It’s pretty weird. It’s just a band you never thought you’d get to play with. Watched them on DVDs for years, and then we're told, “you’re playing with The Who.” I told the manager "bollocks" and put the phone down the first time he told us.
You didn't believe him?
No! I was like, "Yeah, yeah, whatever, mate.”
Back in England you guys are already to the point where you’re playing some of the biggest festivals, playing to larger audiences. So what’s it like coming over to the States where you’re playing smaller venues?
It’s good, man. I like it. It’s kind of a challenge again. We’re kind of humble kids, really, you know what I mean? We haven’t let all this popularity in the UK go to our heads, you know? We still look forward to these small, intimate gigs. It’s a bit of a challenge winning over those people. When you look into the crowd and people are just standing there, trying to not get into it. We love trying to make everyone get into it.
What part of England are you from?
From Leicester, about 100 miles north of London.
Did you guys all know each other as kids? At what point did the band come together?
We’ve all known each other from about 11 years old, 'cause we’re all from the same village. The band started to come together when we were about 17. And Chris Karloff came along when we were about 18, because we realized we needed another guitarist.
And originally it was you, Sergio, Tom, and Chris Karloff and then you added a drummer at a later point. Is that right?
Yeah, we had an old drummer who was in the band for ages. We were a five-piece for a long while. But we didn’t have a drummer when we got signed. But we’ve got one now, Ian Matthews.
And he does play on the album on some tracks, right?
Yeah, that's right. I think we've got five different drummers on the album. Just friends and people from different bands and stuff.
Your lead singer, Tom, has quite a reputation for shooting his mouth off. Do you guys get a kick out of the amount of attention he gets in the press?
The thing with Tom is he’s not like that just for interviews; he's like that all the time. He shouts his mouth off at anything. It’s just his character, you know what I mean? He’s just full of passion and strong opinions about things and he’s not scared to voice them. Most of the time what he’s saying is absolutely true, it’s just no one else dares say it.
Has he ever said anything to the press where the rest of the guys were like “Oh, God, I wish he hadn’t said that.”
Not really, no. Most of the time he’s pretty honest and he knows exactly what he’s trying to say. But he says it in his own little weird way. He makes you laugh, you know?
And most of the time he’s saying stuff that you guys agree with.
Yeah, most of the time. You know, sometimes he'll dis other bands he's never met and stuff. But he's not talking about them as individuals; he’s talking about their music. But it comes out in a way where he sounds like he's having a go at the individual members of the band.
Is there anyone in the UK music scene who you just feel is completely overrated?
I don’t know. Probably The Darkness. It’s just kind of rehashed glam rock. I don't know if you know them over [in America]...
They actually got quite a bit of attention in the States.
Really? They're quite good musicians, but yeah. I just think they’re overrated. Last year they were one of the biggest things around. This year no one admits to owning their album, you know what I mean? “You got that album, didn’t you?” “No, no, I didn’t.” “Yeah, yeah, you got it in your collection.” “No, I haven’t, I haven’t.” It was just kind of a fad at the time.
Are you guys sick at this point of getting the "Madchester" comparisons to Primal Scream and Happy Mondays, and bands like that?
A little bit, yes. Because when it started we were just like, “What?” It made me think people hadn't actually listened to the album.
Who would you say are some of Kasabian’s biggest influences?
I don’t know. Because like I said, there’s an awful lot of influences. People like Blackalicious, DJ Shadow, UNKLE. A German band called Neu! A band called Air. A band that I don't think you know in America, a Scottish band called Boards of Canada. I’ll say Boards of Canada and people are like “What?” “Who?" They use all the old Juno and Korg synthesizers and we use some of the same ones on the album, because we love Boards of Canada.
If Kasabian had to choose between recording an album with all guitars and no synthesizers or all synthesizers and no guitars, which would you choose?
All guitars. I know it's a bit of cheat, but you can make your guitar sound like a synthesizer anyway, you know what I mean?
Plus you get more of a live feeling when you’re playing with guitars than with synthesizers.
Yeah, exactly. You gotta have guitars if you're playing rock 'n' roll.
Kasabian Bio from Discogs
Tom Meighan - vocals
Sergio Pizzorno - guitar, synthesizer, vocals
Chris Edwards - bass
Ian Matthews - drums, percussion